Trust, Duty, Honor

Robert S. Turner
February 10, 2017


On Easter Sunday last year we had a wonderful service in which we celebrated the resurrection of Christ and witnessed the baptism of Michael Grohman. If you have wondered why you haven’t seen much of Michael in church since then, it’s because he has been enrolled since last June in Fire Academy, a grueling thirty-four week program to qualify as a firefighter with the Columbus Fire Department.

The physical, mental, and emotional demands of that work came to fruition this morning, as Michael and thirty-eight of his comrades graduated. They are no longer recruits, but rather full-fledged firefighters. Following the ceremony I watched as Michael’s wife Susan proudly pinned his hard-earned badge to the front of his uniform. It was a moment to cherish: the culmination of years of preparation and challenging work, and the beginning of what we all hope to be a long career in one of the most important public service jobs in our fair city. Michael will be putting his life on the line to keep us safe as he responds to emergency calls as both a firefighter and an EMT.

Among the speakers at today’s ceremony, which was held in a packed-to-the-rafters gymnasium at a CFD facility on Parsons Avenue, were Mayor Andrew Ginther, Council President Zach Klein, Director of Public Safety Ned Pettus, Fire Chief Kevin O’Connor, and Timothy Damopoulos, a member of the graduating class. Each of them spoke of the responsibility these new graduates are taking on their shoulders, and several of them referred to the CFD as the best fire department in the country. They talked about the physical and academic rigors of the training and the 400 hours of community service the recruits put in. They lauded the spouses, friends, parents, and other supporters who helped the recruits make it through the Academy, and warned them that their support and understanding will continue to be vitally important. They talked about the motto this class chose at the outset of their training, “Trust, Duty, Honor,” and why those attributes are so necessary in the work they are embarking upon.

One comment in particular stuck out to me, and made me think about how firefighting is not just a job but a form of ministry. I can’t remember if it was Mayor Ginther or one of the other speakers, but someone said that, among the many other challenges they will face, “You will be encountering people on one of the worst days of their lives.” Even if it is the end of a long shift and you are bone-tired and cranky and it’s your eighteenth call of the day, you have to approach the job with the thought that these people, this house, this family is going through this trauma for the first time ever, and they need your compassion, respect, and understanding as much as they need your firefighting or medical skills. That is a sobering thought.

But having come to know Michael Grohman over the past year and a half, I have no doubt that he will bring that necessary touch of humanity to every call he goes out on, whether it’s a four-alarm house fire or a cat stuck in a tree. (Do they still call firefighters to get cats out of trees?) I have always been struck by Michael’s humility, kindness, and eagerness to serve, and I believe he will carry out his work with the utmost integrity and in the spirit of his servant Lord, Jesus Christ.

I hope you will all join me in offering your heartfelt congratulations to and prayers for Michael as he embarks on this fulfilling but dangerous career in service to our community.

Robert Turner