The world has always needed good leaders. Right now there seems to be a shortage. It seems to be a dying breed, perhaps thatʼs why we have special classes for it.
To fill the place of leadership Iʼm referring to doesnʼt require the richest, the strongest, or even the smartest. The kind of leader we need right now isnʼt defined by or confined to a badge, uniform, rank, title or even numbers on a paycheck. The type of leader weʼre missing today is often known for his or her quiet strength. They have a voice all right, they just choose to let their walking do the talking. This individual doesnʼt need a window sticker, bumper sticker or even a special parking space. They do the right thing, simply because . . . well, itʼs the right thing. They donʼt need recognition, or compensation, their reward is the satisfaction that comes from contributing to a mission bigger than themselves while doing what they believe in. Theyʼre secure enough and humble enough to not need or crave attention. They sacrifice often for someone else’s benefit. They go to work every day and return to their family when work is complete. We need new leaders: humble leaders, determined leaders, leaders committed to the right causes, respected and respectful leaders, leaders humble enough to set aside time to give to others and yet courageous enough when appropriate to face opposition.
Last month I mentioned the dying tradition of “Giving Back” practiced by a faithful few, frequently senior, often retired members. The LAFD family at its core tends to be generous with its money, but in certain day to day situations stingy with its time. Iʼm asking all active department members to consider how they might allocate time and dedicate talent to preserve some of our hard fought benefits. Why? Because we need additional resources to shore up the foundation of some of our key organizations.
On my list of in house organizations with primary vacancies is the Relief Association, Widows, Orphans and Disabled Firemenʼs Fund, LAFDʼs Historical Society with its two museums and Ralph J. Scott restoration project, and The Los Angeles Retired Fire and Police Association. Thanks goes out to those that have helped in the past and those helping right now. But “whoʼs next?” Maybe you?
Just Once a Year
This month I want to mention another vacancy, another opportunity to give of your time and make a positive difference. This opportunity requires just a few hours once a year. This October it would be great to fill every vacant seat at your very own LAFD Annual Firefighterʼs Memorial. This is not the 911 Memorial – this is your very own memorial ceremony held annually at old 27ʼs. You might be thinking “I didnʼt know we had a memorial” or “I didnʼt know that so few attended our memorial” – exactly my point! Iʼm writing this to sound the alarm hoping that many of you will seriously consider self-dispatching to this year’s memorial event.
Especially if your station or battalion has ever suffered a loss of one of its members – you should be there! Over the years and recently weʼve suffered losses from MFC, FPB and Fire Stations 73, 95, 1, 60, 57, 95, 27, and others – you should be there! Out of respect for the families of the deceased that will attend the ceremony – you should be there! To honor the memory and sacrifice of our members – you should be there! Is it too much to ask that each battalion and station in the City be represented on the 11th?
If you knew that every year families, friends and coworkers of members killed in the line of duty or duty related illnesses were present, would you honor them through your presence? Would you change your plans one day out of the year to include a morning to honor fallen members like: Glenn Allen, Eric Reiner, Brent Lovrien, Joe Dupee, Ben Pinel, Jamie Foster, Matt McKnight, Tom Taylor, Frank Hotchkin, Robert Gladden . . . and many others.
By the way; should you be grieving the loss of a retired loved one who passed from natural causes, even an illness unrelated to duty, you are just as welcome to join us. The Memorial Plaza, Wall of Honor, Glass Badge, Eternal Flame and Museum exist to serve as your special connection to the fire family for life. In fact, Old Fire Station 27 represents the single common assignment meant to be shared by all members of the Los Angeles City Fire Department, active or retired, and their families.
So seize the day! With a new mayor, a newly appointed fire chief, new promotions, new firefighters on board and Lord willing, more on the way, what better time than now to model servant leadership. In a Department our size, we have the numbers, we just need the volunteers. One by one, by taking your turn and donating your time, as a group we can all enjoy the benefits of Giving Back. It’s my prayer that as you begin to take your turn, other members – even the newest ones – will catch your act and join the fun. Now thatʼs leadership!
By Chaplain George Negrete