Recently I was fortunate to spend a day at the National “D” Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia. It was a thought provoking and emotional experience. There were two especially thought provoking items on the walls of the memorial for me.
The first was a name. The name was Bernard W. Goodwin. Until this day I had never heard of Bernard before, I have tried to do some research to find out if we are related with little success. But with the last name I believe somewhere in the past our ancestors were related.
The second item was three words written on the wall. These words are Valor, Fidelity and Sacrifice. When thinking of “D” Day and the 120,000 causalities it is astonishing what the leadership accomplished that day. In my opinion there had to be some great leaders to command such an event, in view of the magnitude of those losses but to create an atmosphere where your troops want to continue to fight. Do you think these values exist in todays fire service?
Valor defined: boldness or determination in facing great danger, especially in battle; heroic courage; bravery.
In todays fire service I believe that there is a willingness to face great danger, courage and bravery. In some cases it is an uninformed willingness. I have heard several individuals on social media that believe that dying in the line of duty is a heroic act. I feel differently dying in the line of duty is a tragedy unless it is done to save a savable life, all to often we lose firefighters needlessly by taking unacceptable risks to save lives and property that have already been lost.
Fidelity defined: the quality of being faithful or loyal to a country, organization, etc. : strict observance of promises, duties,
In todays fire service I believe that fidelity exists but it is more of an informed faith, it does not come blindly. Todays generation will not accept the “because I am in charge and I said so” response. But if you can effectively articulate the reasons you expect them to be loyal and these new generations firefighters have confidence in those reasons, they will exhibit the same fidelity that “D” Day troops demonstrated.
Sacrifice defined: the act of giving up something that you want to keep especially in order to get or do something else or to help someone: the surrender or destruction of something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered as having a higher or more pressing claim.
In todays fire service I believe that we do not have the same level of sacrifice as previous generations of firefighters or as the “D” Day troops demonstrated. This is not something that has occurred overnight but it is a product of our society. Our societal norms have changed we are in an instant gratification culture and the fire service has become a job for most and is no longer considered the career it once was.
So can we lead and motivate the same way that those “D” Day troops were led and motivated? The simple answer is no. We must hire the right people, train them the importance of valor, be able to explain the why todays firefighters need to be loyal and faithful to create fidelity. And finally we must find a way to motivate the new fire service to be willing to sacrifice. The willingness to sacrifice that has been part of the fire service for generations.
I wish I had more answers for you but I only have my own observations. These questions will need to be answered by tomorrow’s leaders. Good Luck!!!