to a team, and the unequivocal human trait of being
a part of something bigger than yourself. Nothing
restores morale faster than a working fire with a good
outcome. A life saved or property saved stokes the
inner passion and affirms that we make a difference.
In other words, doing something for someone else is a
drug that stimulates the heart of all public servants to
endure anything and continue to serve.
SERVICE ABOVE ANYTHING
We see the absolute worst of our communities in
the form of inadequate living conditions, an aging
population that is often forgotten and neglected,
and kids surviving in conditions that shock us to the
core. We see the poor, the middle class, and the rich
overdosing from drug addiction. We see the aftermath
of drunk drivers, distracted drivers, and street racers.
We see domestic violence, gang violence, and innocent victims caught at the wrong place at the wrong
time. We know the secrets held by many prominent
community names, and we know the greatness in
nameless citizens who are always there to help their
We deliver our services, spend our time, and help
people without hesitation, without judgment. The
poorest and richest get a full 100 percent when they
need us. We often get the opportunity to buy someone another birthday, anniversary, or Thanksgiving
with his or her family. Sometimes we just help change
a tire, bandage a scraped knee, help someone off the
floor and back into bed, or simply offer directions to
a lost traveler. In the midst of doing this, we dislodge
the cynicism and bliss and focus on making the situation better for anyone needing or willing to receive
our help with no hesitation or regard for politics,
race, or religion. It’s an example of humanity that
occurs hundreds of thousands of times a day across
I recently attended the funeral of a great
friend, mentor, and fire service contribu-
tor, Cortez Lawrence, at Arlington National
He asked about getting the empty shell casings.
Without hesitation, the squad gathered the casings
off the ground, pulled cloths out of their pockets,
and polished each casing before handing them to
the officer, who then presented them to the family
friend. I thought, that’s what we do as firefighters
every time we respond and help without any thought
or analysis—just pure human compassion. That is
what the recipients of the services performed by the
American firefighter feel as we leave each incident.
Standing there in Arlington, witnessing all this with
the Pentagon, Washington Monument, and Potomac
River in the background, surrounded by the graves of
400,000 veterans, made me a little less cynical and a
little more thankful.
I am thankful to have the opportunity be a part of
the greatest profession in world. I am thankful to be a
part of one of the strongest professional brotherhoods
in existence. I am thankful for the opportunity and
accept the responsibility to make a difference. Thanks
to the American fire service for giving me the
opportunity do what I was called to do, and thanks
for all those who helped and continue to help me
along the way.
David Rhodes is a 32-year fire service veteran. He is a chief elder
for the Georgia Smoke Diver Program, a member of the Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC) International Executive Advisory
Board, a hands-on training coordinator for FDIC, an editorial advisor
for Fire Engineering and the UL Fire Safety Research Institute, and
an adjunct instructor for the Georgia Fire Academy. He is a Type III
incident commander for the Georgia Emergency Management-Metro
Atlanta All Hazards Incident Management Team and is a task force
leader for the Georgia Search and Rescue Team. He is president of
Rhodes Consultants, Inc., which provides public safety training,
consulting, and promotional assessment centers.
I recently attended the funeral of a great friend, mentor, and fire service contributor, Cortez Lawrence, at
Arlington National Cemetery. He was a veteran of the United States Army and the United States Marine Corp.
(Photo by author.)