As For Me…

“I am not here for me, I am here for we, …and we are here for them” –Unknown


Its long been on my mind that I have received much credit for a statement that I didn’t create, but that which I used to effect in teaching leadership and service to those I have been responsible for.  I believe there is never a time when you may call yourself a leader without being 100% on the hook for what you say and more importantly what you do and who you really are.  Leadership, done right, is round the clock, 24/7…never a break.  So here I wish to shine a light on why I have used the above quote.  Although I repeat, I cannot take credit for it.  I wish we all could.  Let me explain…

As you walk into my home, you are confronted with a small sign on the wall. Its states very simply that, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” Joshua 24:15. It is there for two reasons. It keeps me accountable to the one who has blessed me with my house and my family. Secondly, it states unequivocally to my guests or to intruders whom it is I serve. So then it is out plainly, …those who dwell in my house and I belong to no man, but God.  Now, I wish I could tell you that I live up to that every day. But in truth and deed I have not and struggle daily. But I bring it to you in order to find a way to illustrate my point.

So we pull the chair up, place our elbows upon the table and sip at the delicious brew. A cup of Java always brings out the philosopher in me…

2 am in Fairbanks at -30 degrees…Are you ready?

Lets look at the same idea from another perspective.  The firehouse.  Who do you serve?  Why of course, the public.  But look deeper into your heart, brother and sister.  Whom do you serve?  Many of our houses are adorned with signs showing who it is we serve as public employees.  As for me and my house, we serve the people of the University and the West Side…regardless of tax or residence.  We are their keeper.  So when we come to the job every day, we are responsible for serving this master.  Each of us in the house must see to it that we are ready for that moment.  And it will arrive at some point. PPE, tools, SCBA, nozzles, hose finishes, tactical pre-planning, knowing your first due, etc…the online world is full of great articles and reminders of our responsibilities.  So much so that I fear we are becoming deaf to its impact.  

I did stop writing for a bit, largely due to my efforts at furthering my education, but also because I had nothing left to say.  It seemed to me that there were so many voices, all vying for the angle and the most unique approach and to what aim?  Is it really making an impact?  Is anyone really reading this stuff?  But I did not start this blog for any reason other than to write.  Not for anyone, but for the sake of writing.  To give voice to my heart for I have a servant’s heart.  I became a fireman because of that.  If this job put money in somebody else’s pocket I probably wouldn’t be doing it…Service is the only life I have known.  But it is so easy to digress…

Who do you serve, …you who wear the mark and take the pay of John Q…?  

Constantly we hear tales of those in our job who fill the firehouses who are self-centered, one-way, team-less members.  Its blamed on the new generation, the old generation and of course the chiefs (its their job to take the blame)…we shake our heads in wonder as we hear of this department or that, so dysfunctional and misguided, …this guy was back-stabbed and that one betrayed us, …this gal is only for herself, not a team player, etc.  Much is exaggerated, but much of it is true.  Makes your head and your heart hurt.  Contrary to appearances, with the right leaders and even sometimes without, men and women will go to great lengths to serve and keep their oath sacred.  So what am I rambling about…?

Many years ago I worked in such a place.  My heart grew weary with the grumbling and misery that lurked in every corner and bay in that department.  I could site numerous examples of horrible behavior, unethical and self-centered, void of any mentoring or valuable leadership examples.  It was choking me.  The few leaders there were often cowed into silence and beat down the negativity.  I was aware at the time that I was being molded and shaped by conditions there.  Every day was a lesson in what not to be as a leader.  I took long notes…

I would endure all day long, trying to be a company officer without any training, without any guidance, a lot of negative reinforcement, with only my experiences in the Marines to point the way.  Perfect place to put a jarhead….In the evening after everyone else hit the rack, I would pace the engine bay and cogitate, going over and over in my mind, better ways to reach the hearts of those I led.  Reviewing in my mind how the day went and how it could have gone better if I had chosen different words or actions.  The internet was new to me then and one night I stumbled across an anonymous quote.  It stated in the simplest of terms how I felt about this job and about how each of us should relate to one another and to those whom we serve.  And just like the sign in the entry way of my family home, I use this quote to hold myself accountable to those whom I lead and serve…it spoke my heart and it became my mantra.

“My House”…It doesn’t matter which one I’m pullin’ duty in, its my house and I own it and everything that effects it..and As for ME and MY House, we serve each that WE can serve THEM.

“I am not here for ME, I am here for WE, …and WE are here for THEM..”  

I know of no better way to say it.  If I am to lead well, I must set myself aside.  I have devoted myself to those whom I lead and serve alongside.  Together we are efficient and have a greater chance of achieve the goal.  That goal is to save life and property, regardless of its value to ourselves.  It is only as an efficient, cohesive team that we can have a realistic expectation that we will reach those who are in the greatest of dangers and closest to death.  If they have any chance of survival, will it not come down to our skills, our readiness, our timelyness, our tenacity, our vigilance of each other, our team work and our dedication?  Too easily we are let off the hook!  I have encountered those who have died before I could reach them, but how often have we arrived when seconds counted, when it came down to how efficient and dialed in we were?  I know you’ve seen it brother, when you arrived seconds too late to make a difference.  More often you commit yourselves and endure a hot fight, just to see the people you were risking your lives for jaw-jackin’ out in the crowd completely oblivious to what you have just gone through on their behalf..But one day, you will arrive in the nick of time…will you and those you serve with be ready?  Any given day, many of us are called to account for our training, our dedication and our readiness to serve.  

Whom do you serve?  Ask yourself, why are you here?  It is so easy to be one-way, dedicated to yourself and only yourself or those you like, those in your crowd.  Are you willing to devote yourself to members you don’t even like?  It is so freeing to devote yourself to be your brother’s keeper.  Say it to yourself when you’re angry and feel slighted, when you didn’t get what you had coming to you or when you show up for duty and you’re the only one on the crew whose ready to do their job…go ahead, “I am not here for ME…”  There is no greater calling.

I am often give credit for the above quote.  I did not make it up, but I recognize it to this day as the calling of my heart, and I wish we could ALL take credit as one, “Yes, I did say that…”  But before we leave this cup o’ joe, I’d like to make sure you understand…I’m not everything I’d like to be, not even close.  I stumble and become ensnared … but I press on…

“I am not here for ME, but I am here for WE, …and WE are here for THEM!” …put it on your wall, just inside the door and everyone who enters will know whom it is you serve.  That was a good cup, don’t you think?





  • Larry Hodges says:

    Always refreashing to read your words Brother!
    Thank you!!!

    • Ben Fleagle says:

      Great to hear from you, Larry! Hope all is well with you and I hope this post gives you and yours the drive you need for the tour! Please accept my condolences for Chris, but he is not longer in pain, my friend. RFB!

  • Dana says:

    Needed a boost. Looked you up and like always the perfect words were put to page.
    Thank you as always brother.
    THAT was a GREAT cup o joe…..

  • Ben Fleagle says:


    Haven’t seen you in a bit, brother! Can you send some of that boost back in this direction? We all need one from time to time, does my heart good to know you found it here!

  • Hudson says:

    Excellent words as always Capt. I feel strongly about what you wrote it speaks to the very heart of why I do this job. I know that it sounds trite but I really got into this job to help people. Don’t get me wrong I love every aspect of it and I wouldn’t want to be anything else, but at the end of day it comes down to this. There is a lot to think about in this one and I have already read it three times, keep up the good work!

  • Chris Moretto says:

    I am 7 months newly promoted Captain and often I wonder if I’m doing a good enough job. What I have tired so hard to do is not make it about me but about my platoon, my crew, and the people we serve. My crew takes a lot of heat from the others because we love to train, not even close to as much as we should, but we take every opportunity we can. This article hits home and helps me believe WE are doing the right thing

    • Ben Fleagle says:


      You are the voice of so many new officers, given the responsibility but not always the way forward. Everyone congratulates you on the bugles, but at night in the bunk you can’t help feel the weight of it. If you’re wondering whether you’re doing a good enough job, then I would venture to say you are doing everything you know to do and are doing well. Is it good enough? Is there more you can do? Well then, how hungry are you? For me, the key to doing enough was understanding just how impossible a task that is, and realizing that your life as a firefighter has changed forever. You belong to “We”. You are married to “We”..It’s the other wife. There will never be a time when you won’t carry the weight of leadership and the responsibility that goes with it. Feeling like you aren’t doing enough is the way that it translates to you. The day you arrive at the firehouse and feel as though you have it all under control, you’ve lost sight of what “We” is about. Embrace the feeling of not being adequate, not knowing enough, not giving enough…it will drive you on. It’s unattainable, but the desire to meet it will keep you moving forward. You must sustain this for the rest of your career, do not take it lightly. Don’t listen to the haters…they can’t hear in their souls what you hear in yours. You know, and I know, that one day you will be called on to give everything you’ve got. Be ready. Its okay if the good Lord never asks for it, you were already giving it. But if He should ask and you are not prepared, you will regret it. Never stop listening to that voice. Chris, I just made Battalion Chief. 28 years in. I can hear it too.

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