Thursday, May 24, 2012

Take Action--I Double Dare You!

Orange City Firefighter, NJ
There was no whining--no bureaucratic road blocks--no hesitation whatsoever when the Orange Fire Department in New Jersey received a flyer from the 9/11 Patch Project asking for their department's participation back in 2002. They had just lost 343 of their brother FDNY firefighters months earlier, and honoring their memory made perfect sense. The fact the project was created by another fellow firefighter and was also a fund raiser--was a no brainer to them. This picture is of an Orange City Firefighter from New Jersey. The Original 9/11 Patch can be seen on the firefighters turnout coat--worn from years of firefighting but none-the-less it is still there representing how Orange Firefighters remember their fallen 343 brothers of the FDNY.

There are thousands of organizations around the world who have made one of the four 9/11 Tribute Patches a permanent part of the uniform, job-shirts, jackets or turnouts. But it has not been easy. What are the road blocks? Why is getting one of these patches from the only project of it's kind  (honoring the memory of our fallen 9/11 heroes) on every departments gear such a task?

Having worked as a firefighter/paramedic and union president in a fire department on the west coast for over 20 years, I have seen the mentality of some organizations out there but don't get it. It has really been about getting everyone on the same page or even getting the issue put to vote. Even the size of the department is not always the issue--its really about who is in charge in the union and the department itself. If the leaders aren't on board for whatever reason, then the rank and file can be left out of the entire process.

To help that decision to come on board with the 9/11 Patch Project as easy as possible, the project has even gone to great lengths to create as much transparency as possible on the website. The project even received an endorsement from the FDNY's Uniformed Fire Officers Association and has donated many 10's of thousands over the years to 9/11 related charities. And as a registered non profit, this worldwide effort to unite firefighters and place a permanent tribute on all uniforms, should have been a no brainer from the start.

LTJG Everett Alcorn- U.S. Navy
Too many folks are looking for a controversy where there is none and using any reason they can think of to opt out of something that may take a bit of effort but may end up being one of the best projects they had ever participated in. Still the patches can be seen on the uniforms of firefighters around the world and even deployed U.S. Soldiers.

So what did one of the largest Fire Departments in the nation do when I approached their union leader during the 10 Year Anniversary of 9/11? He was from Chicago Fire Department. He returned my call within 20 minutes--said he'd welcome our 9/11 Bus tour into their training center--called out his people to meet us--allowed us to present the project and even had the Fire Commissioner there to approve the 9/11 Patch for all FD job-shirts. This man is a leader and can make a decision!!Had he said no, I would have at least respected the fact he was willing to take my call and then make a decision.

There are emails, newsletters and even flyers that have been sent out to all U.S. departments at least twice over the past 10 years. Many were discarded as "junk mail" and members of many departments never even saw info on the project when it was killed at the union president or chief level.Why? Shrug it off to general laziness or the suspicious nature of firefighters.

Here's a news flash: This project is not a money maker for project founder Brett Hill! I have even put over $75,000 of my own money into this project over the years to keep it going. This has contributed to my own financial hardships and put a strain on my family of 5, one of which is my daughter with special needs. Am I whining? Not at all...just putting it all in perspective and just looking for folks to standup and be counted or sit down and say "NO."I keep this project running as I believe it is my calling and the right thing to do. I also do this as years ago when I heard the words, "Please Don't Forget Us," relayed to me from an LAFD firefighter, I made a promise right there to NEVER FORGET.

So if you receive and email from the 9/11 Patch Project in the future, have the guts to act on it and not hide behind the fact you can just ignore it. You may not believe that we should have a uniformed tribute to remember the heroes of 9/11--you may just believe it's time to move on and forget. But have the balls to respond either way.

If you believe in what the project has done over the past 10 years, then please take action! Visit the website and learn more HERE.

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