The following is taken from the Bulletin of a Chicago Fire Department Family Mass and was written by CFD Chaplain Fr. Tom Mulcrone a few years ago.
"JUST A FIREMAN"
These have been some difficult days for our Fire Department. Once again we are under attack from without and within over allegations made by a prostitute who has also distinguished herself as a liar and a thief. Of course those with certain agendas have chosen to believe her. Go figure! Just when you thought morale couldn't sink any lower we find ourselves hurting even more.
This past Tuesday we buried one of the great ones of the C.F.D., Chief Charles Pierce. He was a 'fireman's fireman." If you didn't know him you missed the chance to have met a real class act. He loved firefighters and paramedics and he loved his job. With that in mind I would like to share with you the words he spoke the night of his retirement party, September 18, 1981.
"Many years ago I met a man I hadn't seen since my brother and I went to high school with him. After the small talk was finished he inquired of my profession and seemed pleased that I was a fireman, but when I told him my brother was vice-president of a large firm, he replied 'Wow, George is a vice-president and you're just a fireman.'
"That was over 35 years ago and although I have been fortunate to be promoted through the ranks to my present position, that expression still irritates me because it is an insult to our profession. Recall for a moment the number of times you heard or even said to yourself, "I am just a fireman.'
"Permit me to interpret, if you will, what it means to me to be 'just a fireman:'
-Is a person who has dedicated most of his adult life to his fellow man, or
-A firefighter who is maimed or disfigured-are they " just a fireman?'
-Is a man who has sacrificed precious hours away from his family or has to
work an extra job to supplement his income 'just a fireman?'
-What about the agony of carrying a dead child in your arms or the
grotesque expression of people killed in crashes, is that being 'just a
-Spending cruel hours at conflagrations in sub-zero weather when you
know you have no choice but to stay and let the ice pile up on your face
and fire clothes, does that make you 'just a fireman?'
-Or, what about those rotten, smoky basement fires when you pray for a
breath of fresh air or the other fear of staying under a truss roof not
knowing when it will collapse- is that being 'just a fireman?'
"Can anybody (but a fireman) know the tremendous sorrow at the scene of a fire when one of their comrades is carried out in a body bag?
"I don't know of any profession, other than the military, that has given so much to his fellow man than the Fire Service. When we are called to respond to the incident with just one thought in mind, and that is to serve our community.
"In closing, we should always hold our heads high and with dignity, proclaiming to all: 'Yes, I am only a fireman, and very proud of it."
"Thank you and God bless you all"
(Charles J. Pierce)