I have never met Martin J Peverley, the Deputy Chief of Annandale Hose Company No.1 in Clinton Township, New Jersey – but I have a deep appreciation for him.
I was going through the ole mailbag and found an email from Chief Peverley. It appears that my mother is not the only one who reads this column… for in this email Chief Peverley informed me about his actions following my piece of the Eternal Flame at the National Fire Academy.
It seems that Chief Peverley, like me, wanted to know why the flame was extinguished at the Fallen Firefighters Memorial; so he asked.
I like his style of asking.
On September 24th, Chief Peverley went straight to the New Jersey General Assembly and addressed his concerns to Assemblymember Mike Doherty. It is good to have friends in high places.
Chief Peverley writes, “As I sit in my hotel room after the 130th New Jersey State Fireman's Convention I feel the need to reach out to anyone that will listen with regards to an article that, unfortunately, I did not read until the convention was already over.”
”The article appears in the October issue of 1st Responder News and is written by Michael Heeder. The title is "Eternal Flame?” According to this article, the 'Eternal Flame' at the National Fallen Firefighter's Memorial in Emmitsburg, MD, which I have had the profound experience of witnessing for myself, has been extinguished since July.”
Chief Peverley goes on to write, “The firefighters of this great nation, both past and present, deserve better than this. According to the Bible, "Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for a friend", and yet every year over 100 firefighters display a greater love by making the supreme sacrifice for people they may not even know.”
”The annual Memorial Weekend is October 5-7, 2007. I urge you to investigate the status of the Eternal Flame and guarantee to the firefighters of this great Nation that it will indeed remain an Eternal Flame. We give our lives freely, regardless of age, color, creed or political affiliation. The least that we ask is that our National Fallen Firefighter’s Memorial be treated with the respect that we have paid for in blood.”
Kinda brings a tear to your eye doesn’t it? It did for me. But that is not the end of the story.
Assemblymember Doherty replied back, stating “My staff contacted FEMA and were told that the Eternal Flame is temporarily down for repairs. It had developed a gas leak and they are waiting for the necessary parts to repair it. They hope to have it burning for the Memorial weekend in October.”
Now that, my friends, is action. Kudos to you Chief. I would love to say how wonderful things are, but I can’t.
Trust me, I really want to. But something is still gnawing at me about this whole thing. The flame is shut off in July, the concerns are addressed in September, and they “hope to have it burning” in October? How bad is this leak that requires three months to wait on parts and fix?
This whole situation was brought to my attention by my good friend Mark Smith, the Fire Marshal for Alachua County, Florida. He likened this flame to another eternal flame… the one marking John F. Kennedy’s grave in Arlington National Cemetery. Mark commented that if there were a problem with the gas supply to the President’s flame it would be fixed immediately… does this reflect the government’s opinion of the fire service?
I don’t believe so, but I do think that the fire service has lost some of its political luster it once had in areas of the country. I will hold my tongue on the whole political atmosphere related to the fire service, but suffice it to say, it is not what it used to be. Luckily we have leaders like Chief Peverley, along with the IAFF and the IAFC, who make the contacts and the efforts to make sure the fire service remains in the forefront of the political movers and shakers of this nation.
It takes all of us to affect change, with each of us doing our part. So thank you Martin, for doing your part to honor our fallen brothers and sisters – and inspiring the rest of us to act in the best interest of our effort.