So what does each one represent?
The Syracuse Fire Department adopted a system of service bars about 20 years ago to replace the conventional medals and decorations worn on our Class A uniforms. This presents a much neater and more professional appearance, and keeps our more highly decorated members from looking (and feeling) like Idi Amin with all that hardware on your chest. Some of the medals were presented on neck ribbons, and dragging those through the potato salad at the Annual Awards Reception was really not very appropriate to the occasion. The service bars in my own display represent a 40-year career (so far) at some of our busiest companies, and include individual medals for valor following rescues of citizens and/or brother firefighters, unit citations for actions on the fireground, and EMS awards and citations for exceptional rescues and "saves" over the years. There are three different levels of awards, and you are limited to wearing no more than two rows of three for any level. I actually have a few more that I cannot wear. We do still receive the actual medals, but as I said, those are all in a box somewhere along with dozens of plaques and framed citations. I'm really not a big fan of the "I love me" walls I see some folks display. Just a personal choice. Yes, you've earned them all, and thank you for your service . . . but those of us who have been around a while understand that some of the finest, bravest work we've ever seen received little or no recognition at all. An early Fire Chief of the New York City Fire Department stated that a man should receive a medal when he joined the department - anything he did after that was in the line of duty. There's some truth to the sentiment, but having said that, we have all seen courageous acts that truly went "above and beyond" that call of duty.
I've always maintained that the awards, medals and citations aren't really for us - they are for our families. Those familes that have sacrificed so much of themselves and their precious time to enable us to do what we do. My children and grandchildren make a much bigger deal of the decorations than I do - and in fact, as I stated, this display was prompted by them. I'm very pleased with how it turned out, and it will give them all something to remember me by when I'm gone.
But I ain't goin' soon, and I sure as hell ain't goin' quietly!