Please take the time to read this Guest post by Chief Pete Lamb (Ret.). He has a very eye opening view of the words Never Forget and they relate to us, the families, and the fire service as a whole.
What Does the term ‘Never Forget” really mean in the Fire Service?
It is often said, and seen in a variety of places in the fire service, the term “Never Forget”. The real question is what does it mean to you and others. What it means is what you personally do about the statement. Not that you say it, but what action does it cause you to take?
Here are my thoughts after many years of reflection on many LODDs and funerals.
Never Forget the members we lost.
We should always be cognizant of the statistics and the numbers but we should always look and discover who the firefighter that was lost was. In these days of social media and the internet we often hear of LODDs thousands of miles away from us. We have no way of knowing who the person really was. I suggest that when you hear of a LODD, you begin to Google the person’s name and city, or state. Read the local news media accounts of the incident. You will learn that they were a father /mother, brother sister, basketball coach or son and daughter. You will actually learn something about the person, rather than having them become a statistic. You can then follow the local and national coverage as the services are held and tributes pour in.
Never Forget what these fallen members taught you.
Even if you are very far removed, by searching as I suggested above, you will learn something from their lives that will teach you something. You might learn that they lived life to the fullest, you might learn that they were an athlete or a member of the church congregation or whatever. There are many things we learn from others, and as I have learned we often learn about others, much too late, often after they have left us.
Never Forget the circumstances of how they died.
Often when there is a LODD the preliminary facts can sometimes be incomplete and sketchy until a comprehensive investigation is complete. Look at all of these investigations and reports as a witness and not as a judge. We have to view these incidents as to what the deceased member knew at the moment of the incident, rather than what we know from and exhaustive investigative study 6 months later. Learn all of the details as accurately as you can, and then apply those circumstances to you, and your department and system and see if you could fall victim to the same conditions. Learn about the building that caused the LODD and go out into your response district and find similar buildings. Make a plan for your, your crew, and your families.
Never Forget the members families
The fire service does an incredible job of family support in most cases, and we do it the way we know how. Some of what we do by helping the families helps us personally to ease our pain, if we can deflect it to help others. But we must remember that after the tide from the “Sea of blue” at the memorial service subsides, in the days weeks and months after the surviving family members are left with closets of clothes that will never be worn again, bills and often legal documents of unfinished business. The families’ home is filled with thousands of personal reminders of members lost and it may be difficult to be surrounded by so many thoughts of someone taken from them so suddenly and unexpectedly. There will be future holidays and birthdays that will never be the same again for as long as the survivor’s live. They will need support, but space, they will need some distraction and comfort. Each family will approach this in a different way. We should also be aware that the department may represent some resentment in a small way as the cause of their loss. This often resolves itself in time, but we need to be aware of the tremendous emotional roller coaster is on and our job is to support them in whatever way is appropriate. Sometimes our efforts during the memorial are possessive. This is our member, one of us. We must always be cognizant that they “belong” to their family first and our family second. Further we must always be there for these families, years after the incident. Our commitment to “Never Forget” must go on forever. Never is a long time.
Never Forget to personally do something about it.
In addition to going to the service if you are close enough or you are able, do something in the person’s memory. Train with your crew or members on the circumstances of how they died. Go out in your response area and look at similar buildings.
Start or participate in fundraisers that will be long lasting and meaningful.
Mention them by name during training sessions. Share information about them.
Remember them 6 months to a year later when the reports begin to come out.
Say a prayer for them and their family and their department.
There are many things you can do. Think of something unique and meaningful to you so that none of the members we have lost have ever died in vain.
Saying you will never forget, or having a Tee shirt or a sticker is great, but “Never forget” is really about action.