I've just returned from a wonderful induction ceremony as Mount Dora welcomed 16 new firefighters and promoted two of our existing firefighters to Lieutenants. This kind of ceremony is called a "Pinning Ceremony" because the new firefighters have their badges pinned on them by loved ones and are welcomed into the Fire Department by their colleagues. Normally we pin firefighters or police officers during City Council meetings but usually there are only one or two at a time. Tonight, a couple of hundred friends and family members and most of our City Council members were on hand at First Baptist Church along with representatives from several other nearby fire departments to congratulate our newest hometown heroes.
You might recall that I told you several months ago that Mount Dora had been awarded over a $1,000,000 grant from a Homeland Security competitive grant called a SAFER Grant. This grant will pay the majority of the salaries for 12 new firefighters over the next three years. Four other new firefighters were brought onboard to replace others who have resigned or retired from our fire department. Our new lieutenants (one male and one female) were promoted from within the department which is great.
The new firefighters were led in by a departmental bagpiper. They are a great looking and diverse group of women and men who have chosen to be firefighters for a variety of good reasons all of which have to do with serving others and being a part of something bigger than themselves. One by one they took the stage along with their parent or spouse or perhaps a friend or relative who is also in the fire service. Once they received their badge they were welcomed by the fire chief, the city manager and posed for photos while the audience applauded. It was up-lifting.
I don't think there was a dry eye in the house when one new firefighter was pinned by his girl friend and then dropped to a knee and proposed (by the way, she said yes). Another new firefighter was accompanied by his wife and two very young kids who shouted out loud that they loved their daddy.
There were lots of very proud parents, spouses and friends with smiles all around. I was especially impressed by the number of representatives from other fire departments who were on hand to add their congratulations especially at this very busy time of the year. It was a heartwarming display.
Our fire chief, Tim Griner reminded everyone that the job they have signed up for will require each of the new firefighters to live away from their respective families one third of the time, miss one third of future Christmases with their families as well as one third of their weekends, etc. They will witness death and destruction that most of us can't even imagine so support from their families will be essential. Our job is to provide them with the best training and equipment available to help keep them safe and healthy.
I'm glad that this group of dedicated, bright, enthusiastic young women and men are now part of our team. While rock stars and professional athletes will make more money and enjoy more accolades in their brief careers than these folks will in their entire lifetimes, I for one know that these young ladies and gentlemen have already earned my eternal respect and gratitude.
I have two quotes about first responders that I'd like for you to consider. Denis Leary said; "What firefighters and people in our military and cops do is separate from what the rest of us do; basically these people say, I'm going to protect all these strangers." And from Susan Diane Murphree; "Firefighters never die, they just burn forever in the hearts of the people whose lives they save."
Based on what I heard and saw this evening we can all breathe easier. We're in very good hands!
Marc Crail Your proud District 4 City Council member
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