It's been 5 years since I wrote "Missing a Mentor: What about Bob?" — a tribute to someone who I admittedly underappreciated until it was too late.
A lot has happened in these 5 years. I was a chief officer in my volunteer fire department then and now I'm back to riding backwards, still struggling to find my place in my company. The ups and downs in my personal and professional life are countless. Against all odds, I even survived long enough to turn 50 last week. lol
We've built three new multi-million dollar live fire training facilities, created state-of-the-art roof ventilation simulators, added fresh blood to our cadre of dedicated instructors and coordinated nearly 5,000 training events from our Erie County Fire Academy. Those are big investments.
I think that one of our greatest investments, and thus our greatest returns have come from the fact that we've trained and graduated more than 1,000 new firefighters in our county in the past 5 years. More than a thousand firefighters now unselfishly serving their volunteer fire departments and their communities.
If anyone thinks that today's generation is only all about themselves and not about giving back — they need to observe one of our Firefighter 1 Boot Camp courses. I'm proud to say that Erie County NY is bucking the national decline in volunteerism as we brought in over 600 new recruits in 2012. Those sheer numbers are a tribute to the great work ethic and spirit of our caring community.