Growing up I had two brothers and one sister. We were about two years apart in age and in most every aspect, typical siblings. We played, we fought, we teased, we shared and, most importantly, we truly loved and cared for each other.
As we grew older, we developed as individuals with different interests, beliefs, perspectives and lifestyles. And although as adults we found ourselves opposing each other's opinions or not agreeing on matters involving faith, politics or personal behavior, we were never any less brothers and sister who continued to love and support each other.
Throughout history, one of the most revered and appealing aspects of the fire service is that of the "Brotherhood." This is demonstrated in how we interact, affectionately referring to one another as brother and sister, and more importantly, in how we watch out for one another while performing our work and supporting each other in times of tragedy and loss.
In this respect, we continue to distinguish ourselves as among the most noble and honorable of professions.
My personal observations of the current fire service give me the sense that this brother- and sisterhood is still very strong.
However, I don't think it's something we can ever take for granted. Just as there is an increasing number of societal issues that we allow to be polarizing and divisive, we see examples of these same issues creeping into the fire service.
When our commitment to one another only goes as far as our own personal or financial interests, political or religious affiliation, or comfort level with another's lifestyle, are we truly the brother- and sisterhood we espouse?
And, if we extend this concept to cover for or excuse inappropriate or illegal behavior, are we truly acting in the larger brotherhood's best interest?
As leaders within our own organizations or the fire service as a whole, we must continue to uphold and instill this sense of brother- and sisterhood in spite of our divergent perspectives and positions.
As in my example of my own brothers and sister, we can discuss sensitive or difficult issues, even to the point of disagreement, and maintain our collegial and treasured relationships.
Likewise, we can and should hold each other accountable without ostracizing each other or dividing into factions.
G. Keith Bryant
President and Chairman of the Board