John R. Kowalski Integrative Marketing Fusion

Volunteerism & Service – FF1 Complete

Volunteerism & Service – FF1 Complete

John R Kowalski poses with his Shane Daughette Award.

Good morning. As I reflect on this past week of a training coming to an end and a celebration of Firefighter I certification I keep coming back to the terms volunteerism and service. That is what it’s all about for volunteer firefighters. Serving and protecting your community. Helping people in need on their worst days.

Here is the text of my speech (part of it a repeat from my departments 2018 award dinner):

What a long road this has been. We started in August and I feel we could’ve spent a month on every topic. But this is the beginning. This was about foundations that we can build upon moving forward through ongoing learning and training.

As far as this speech… I keep coming back to one I made at my departments awards dinner as I think it fits this event as well.


This is our fire hall. This is our fire family.

We are members of a unique and special brother and sister-hood that goes back centuries to ancient Rome and even before that in ancient Egypt.

In 1666 the Great Fire of London helped standardize firefighting. In America, George Washington, the future President was a volunteer firefighter in Alexandria, Virginia as a member of the Friendship Veterans Fire Engine Company. Benjamin Franklin was also a volunteer firefighter helping to create the first fire department in Philadelphia in 1736.

The first known female firefighter Molly Williams took her place with the men on the drag ropes during the blizzard of 1818 and pulled the fire water pump to the fire through deep snow.

The first organized municipal fire brigade in the world was established in Edinburgh, Scotland, when the Edinburgh Fire Engine Establishment was formed in 1824. London was formed 9 years later in 1833.

The fire service is rich with history.

Firefighters have been helping communities and engaging in charitable causes through generations. An early example is firefighter Royal Tunbridge Wells. He helped raise money for widows and orphans. He used his dog ‘Jack’ and cat ‘Arthur’ to help encourage donations.

Signal Mountain, TN 2016

Signal Mountain, TN 2016

Speaking personally, I joined after the Gatlinburg fires… after our mountain, Signal Mountain was on fire. I still remember driving with my family on Highway 153 towards the mountain and seeing the plumes of smoke. Our mountain was on fire. At that moment I had to help. Not just something to do but a deeper calling from within. To help my family, to help my community. To protect us all. I am a protector. Maybe 6 or 8 months after that… I remember Lt. Clift say to me, “You’ve got the fire bug. I see it.” He was right. And that bug burns hotter now than ever. I’ve taken many classes, received certifications and completed the Firefighter I program. I plan to attend training, conferences and seminars. I’m also working on transitioning my career to help fire service organizations (but that’s another story for another time). I am a protector and part of the fire service and part of the Lone Oak Volunteer Fire Department.

Why are you here? Why are you part of the fire service?

Regardless of the fire service history and changes through the years and the reasons on why we are here. There is one constant thing that will never change. Courage, Compassion and Community.

This is our fire hall. This is our fire family. We are here to help our community. We are here to be an integral part of our community. And when I talk of this, I don’t mean just the members. I’m talking about everyone in this room – our families. They give to and help our community. They share us. When the call comes in the middle of the night or when we’re just sitting down to dinner, they share us and give to our community too. Thank you to my wife Brynne and daughter Sofia, and all of our families from the bottom of my heart.

This is our fire hall. This is our fire family.


So here I am with my new brothers and sisters. Our fire family. We made it to this point. We are here. Together. We have learned from the skills, knowledge and mistakes of our instructors. We learned that Fire is Hot. We studied, laughed, argued. All the things that brothers and sisters do. But we came together… eventually… as a team. We made it together and are now standing here in the proud tradition of the fire service.

I want to thank Rip, Jody and Nick. For their instruction, direction… patience… head-shaking… eye-rolling… all of it… Thank you sincerely from all of us.

A big thank you to Director Adams for his leadership, expertise and assistance. And to all the adjunct instructors who came down and gave their time to help us learn.

And the biggest thank you goes to our families. They have shared us. For the time away training and studying. For coming home exhausted with no energy for anything. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I know it hasn’t been easy, so thank you.

In addition to the certifications I was awarded the prestigious Shane Daughette Award. Since firefighter Shane Daughettee’s death, this award is given to a fire graduate who demonstrates great leadership, attitude and dedication throughout the duration of Firefighter I class. This is truly an honor.

Here is a video presentation that the training team PIO put together showing some of our training moments. Enjoy!

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