What have we learned in 2008? Are we better off here on the threshold of 2009 having experienced so much in the last year? Or are we destined to repeat our mistakes? Are we advocating better cardiac fitness for our troops? Are we beating the seatbelt issue into their heads on a daily basis? Are we telling them that it's silly to fight fire without using proper PPE and are we telling them that unoccupied buildings aren't worth jeopardizing their lives over?
Are we using better methods for finding fires? Are we using more modern technologies for communicating on the fireground or at the scene of disasters? Are our communications systems interoperable and are we even speaking the same language?
Are we any closer to a National Mutual Aid Box Alarm System? How about working with the military on domestic disaster issues? Are we getting the typing and credentialing issues resolved? As much as we have learned about ourselves, our industry, and the environment in which we operate, how much of it has translated into positive change for the good of our service?
How much is dependent upon funds that are being eliminated? How much is dependent upon that ill-educated politician? How much of our mission is being sacrificed by the self-serving and the egotistical for their own gains?
If we can open our eyes in 2009, and we can look past our own needs and look to the greater good, the communities in which we serve and the brotherhood of the fire service, if we can put our egos aside and agree to work together, career and volunteer, rural and urban, North and South, East Coast and West Coast, labor and management, we can achieve greatness.
The fire service is as unified as it is finely divided. Until we can put aside our differences to realize that we DO have some common ground, and focus on solving those core issues, we will continue to fight these same battles. What's more, we'll be fighting them generations from now (if we still exist), because we have been fighting them for generations heretofore.
Have we really learned from our experiences? Or are we doomed to repeat the past? I guess 2009 will tell.