On Wednesday, April 10, 2019, at the Opening Ceremony Day 1 of FDIC International 2019, FDIC Education Director Chief (Ret.) Bobby Halton fired up the standing-room only crowd of more than 3,500 attendees with his Welcome Remarks.
“We take it for granted that we all complain endlessly about our jobs, the bosses, the department, the patients, working conditions, the pay, and almost every possible aspect of what we call our job but, not surprisingly to any of us, none of the good ones leave. Yes, we all endlessly gripe about everything and everyone, but we all stay. We stay because we belong here, we fit in here, we get one another.
“That awareness of our commonality is our sense of belongingness. That belongingness is comprised of many things: legend, tradition, history, principles, character, virtue--things that have inspired firefighters generation after generation to perform at a level far beyond anything that anyone thought was possible. Belongingness, membership is precious; it makes us able to do things that baffle doctors, astound engineers, upset folks in central planning, and impress outsiders in general.
“Our belongingness is treasured, protected. Those in command at every level must always be made mindful that to be a good officer, you must know what your people are going through and what is expected of them or you don’t know what you are doing.
“We hold Sextus Empiritus’ mantra as fundamental: ‘Those who talk should do and only those who do should talk.’
“Unfortunately, there is a lot of talking going on these days by a lot of very well-intentioned people who really don’t know what we are going through or what is expected of us and maybe, more importantly, what we expect of ourselves.
“Seemingly everywhere we go today, we are being bombarded by terrifying revelations, reports, and findings from some doctor, psychologist, researcher, or therapist--all experts and all truly concerned, all predicting the seemingly inevitable fate every firefighter is destined to befall. It is as if firefighting must be some kind of Greek or Shakespearian tragedy. We are confronted endlessly about horrible things, terrible fates, and seemingly overwhelming challenges for firefighters: cancers, addictions, emotional issues, physical injuries, autoimmune diseases, and mental health disorders.
“Routinely, well-intentioned supporters who have no bloody clue what is expected of us or what we are going through insist we embrace a victim status. Firefighters never bought in to this fatalistic victimization because we operate forward in the real world, in real time, against real threats involving real people’s lives and often our own. We deal with real victims, and we recognize their suffering. We see real pain and tragedy. And we never would do anything to belittle or minimize those we care for.
“We do this all the while staying focused on the mission; on our families; on our fellow firefighters; on our friends; and often, lastly, to our detriment, on our own personal health and well-being. Every single firefighter in this room knows why, and we say it without hesitation, because firefighting is the best damn job we’ve ever had, and if you don’t understand that, then I can’t help you.
“We love this job because we love each other. We love fighting fire, fighting mother nature, fighting fate, fighting bad days, and fighting stupidity because we get to do it together.
“We live in, are protected by, and are the protectors of the world’s greatest nation. We live in, are protected by, and are the protectors of the world’s greatest just culture--the American fire service. We fight for the chance to tilt at windmills, to stand against hurricanes, to chase tornados, to march into hell if someone needs us or is in trouble. Those things make us come together in ways that those who never did could never understand.
“When we find ourselves in chaos, when we face overwhelming odds, when our bonds are strong and our culture just, we can get knocked down, jammed up, and crushed; but with the right help and strong teammates, we grow, we thrive, we come back.
“For us firefighters, along with God, family, and country, we have each other, we belong. We believe in each other, we love each other, and that is what makes this the best damn job we ever had.
“We know we are facing overwhelming odds, but we are not victims, we are not fated, and we are not tragic. We accept the challenge. We know that we must protect ourselves from acquirable cancers; we must maintain healthy lifestyles, exercise, have strong relationships, pray, work out, and care for one another.
“We grow physically, emotionally, and spiritually because we are connected to and we belong to the best damn people in the world. We get to stand tall and proud as American patriots who have accepted the challenge, who are willing to face overwhelming odds, who defy the odds of survival, who can always be counted on to do what damage we can because for us, this is and will always be the best damn job we’ve ever had.”