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For My Fallen Brothers

Updated on March 27, 2014
Boston Firefighter Michael Kennedy (L) and Lt. Edward Walsh
Boston Firefighter Michael Kennedy (L) and Lt. Edward Walsh
Author as Assistant Chief, Boyd Fire Dept.
Author as Assistant Chief, Boyd Fire Dept. | Source

9-Alarm Fire in Boston

They Were My Brothers

If you've never been a Firefighter, a Police Officer, a Paramedic, or military, it's something you can't truly comprehend.

Oh sure: you're shocked and saddened by the tragedy in Boston so many others are. No denying that.

But please, unless you are- or have been- one of those people listed above, if you did not know these two men personally, don't say "as much as you are," to me or any other Firefighter, Police Officer, Paramedic, Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine.

Because you're just not.

And that's no put-down, no insult or injury intended, so please don't take it that way. All I mean is that unless you've been part of the Harley-Davidson T-shirt says: "If I have to explain, you wouldn't understand."

Firefighters are part of something very special, elite...sacred.


Though we never met, Edward Walsh and Michael Kennedy were my brothers. We knew nothing about each other, never once spoke to each other, and until yesterday evening I didn't even know what either one looked like, let alone their names.

Still, they were my brothers.

They would've given their lives for me, and I for them.

And "there but for the Grace of God go I."

On how many fires might I have met the same fate? I learned not to keep count lest my number come up.

I once read somewhere- in fact, I think it came from a former Boston Fire Commissioner- that a Firefighter's first act of courage is the decision to become a firefighter.

Heroes? You may call us that, but each and every damn one of us will say, "Naww, I'm no damn hero, just doin' my job."

Then, we'll point to somebody like Walsh or Kennedy and say, "Now that guy: yeah, but not me."

I never considered myself a hero and- even today- bristled at such praise in my direction.

And I'm sure it was the same for Kennedy and Walsh.

No, the heroes were my brother Firefighters, those I served alongside, those who served under my command.

So often as a Chief, I could only look on in awe as "my guys" pulled off some miracle or other, making me look like I knew what I was doing in the process.

No doubt, Boston's Chief will tell you the same thing.

Boston's Chief will also tell you this: His heart aches for his men.

You see, no matter how high you get on the Fire Department, you're still a Firefighter.

Those men are still your brothers.

And they always will be.

It is a bond as strong as family.

No matter how long you've been away from the Department, that bond remains.

As strong as ever.

Yes, these men were my brothers. And I am as proud of them as if they were truly from my own family.

And my heart aches as badly.

From Those Much Wiser Than I

"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13 (KJV)

"Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.…" John 14:1,2,3. (KJV)

"It is foolish and wrong to mourn the ones who died. Rather, we should thank God such men lived." Gen George S. Patton


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