Each year on September 11, the Gerald R. Ford Council of the Boy Scouts of America, and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation and Museum honor those who sacrificed their lives during the terrorist events of September 11, 2001, by hosting a Community Day of Remembrance and day-long Scout Salute.
WMU-Cooley Law School Professor and retired Brigadier General Michael C.H. McDaniel, an Eagle Scout himself, joined police, fire, EMS and military personnel, including over 100 Patriot Guard motorcyclists, as the flag that was flown at the museum for the memorial was escorted into the City of Grand Rapids. Below is his speech.
“First, if I may, let me express my gratitude to the Patriot Guards motorcycle group and their state commander for escorting the Colors brought by the Grand Rapids Fire Department and the Boy Scouts. I have been to many military funerals. And while I know, as a law professor at WMU-Cooley, that the Westboro Baptist Church has the right under the First Amendment to protest near military funerals, as a member of the military, it makes me sick. So, I am always grateful to the Patriot Guard for their selfless duty at every military funeral I have attended, creating a human buffer, no matter the weather, between the family of the fallen and the protesters.
The American flag represents our beliefs as a nation: the unity of our people, the diversity of our nation.
It is symbol of what we fight for. After Iwo Jima, after 9/11, after every conflict, this flag was raised high in the sky, as a symbol of sacrifice, of American resilience and of determination. Here is how the symbolism of the American flag is generally understood:
- A 17-year-old school boy (Robert Heft) from Saginaw, Michigan designed our flag in 1958.
- The U.S. flag consists of 13 horizontal stripes, seven red alternating with six white. The stripes represent the original 13 colonies; the stars represent the 50 states of the union.
- The colors of the flag, perhaps, are even more symbolic: Red symbolizes hardiness and valor; White symbolizes purity and innocence; Blue represents vigilance, perseverance and justice.
It is altogether fitting, then, that we reflect on those values today, a day which has been consecrated by the blood and tears of the fallen and their families. But this time, on September 11, it was not the sacrifice of the members of the military, but of our other public servants. One of the greatest lessons of 11 September 2001, was that not just the military, but Law Enforcement, Fire, EMS, Emergency Management all made sacrifices for the principles which our flag represents.
Today, I want to talk about the fire community in detail, rather than the others. Yesterday, a senior fireman, Dennis Rodeman, of the Lansing Fire Department was intentionally struck by a pickup truck and killed. Firefighter Rodeman was also a U.S. Marine, 24th Marine Regiment, who served in Fallujah, Iraq.
Two points I wish to emphasize:
- First, what a great public servant. Firefighter Rodeman although not killed on a call, died while serving the public. He was participating in a Fill the Boot drive for Muscular Dystrophy, just as firefighters, and the IAFF (International Association of Fire Fighters), have served so many causes and charities benefiting the public.
- And it appears that he may have been targeted because he was a firefighter, because he was wearing the uniform. And it reminded me of the incident in western New York on Christmas Eve, when a madman set his house on fire, called 911 so that the firemen sacrificing their holiday with family and friends in the warmth of their homes, would be lured into an ambush and intentionally gunned down, because they were firefighters.
Since 9/11, we have honored firefighters for their resolute courage to save as many others as possible without regard to the risk to self. But so it ever was for firefighters, LE and EMTs. America did not realise the self-sacrificial nature of the job until that day. In short, firefighters were already the equals in self-sacrifice of soldiers and police officers for, but on that day, the rest of us finally realized that fact. All three groups are symbols of the ultimate self-sacrifice for our citizens and our country.
There appears to be an epidemic of armed violence against law enforcement.
On the first day of this month, Lt. Charles Gliniewicz of Fox Lake, Illinois, PD was the eighth law enforcement officer shot and killed in the U.S. in 30 days and the fourth in 10 days, according to the Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. The reasons are not obvious, ranging from the generations-long ostracism of socio-economic and racial sectors of our country and community, to the accessibility of firearms by those not competent to use them. What is obvious, however, is that police officers are targeted for the uniform they wear.
When I served at the Pentagon for a short two years, one of my duties was Force Protection policy. Not operations, granted, but revising the policies to protect our servicemembers. In that short time, we had four attempts or attacks on the Pentagon, with either firearms or explosives. Why? Because the building is seen, as our servicemembers are seen, as representatives, as symbols of this country.
But – Now, with the death of our Lansing firefighter it would seem that, like soldiers and police officers, because firefighters are also symbols of our country and community, they will be attacked because they are such a symbol.
To the Scouts, a few short words. My proudest moment was not pinning on these stars. It was pinning on the Eagle, to become an Eagle Scout. Scouts, you are here to honor and guard this flag, over the next 24 hours, as a symbol of our country. But know that while you are doing so, while you are sacrificing a small slice of time for this noble purpose, you are honoring the firefighters, the police officers, and the members of the military for their sacrifices. You, Scouts, you are not just the firefighters, police officers and military of tomorrow, you are the dedicated and informed future public servants that this country always will need, because public service in all its forms is the foundation of this great country.
Because of the death of firefighter and U.S. Marine, Dennis Rodeman, I ask you to permit me to end with a benediction:
Father Mychal Judge, a FDNY Chaplain (and a Franciscan friar from my undergrad school, St. Bonaventure U), said these words in his last homily to his fellow firefighters : You do what God has called you to do. You show up. You put one foot in front of another. You get on the rig and you go out and you do the job – which is a mystery. And a surprise. You have no idea when you get on that rig. No matter how big the call. No matter how small. You have no idea what God is calling you to. But he needs you. He needs me. He needs all of us. Father Mychal was the first victim of the attacks on the Twin Towers on 9/11.
May God bless us and the United States of America.”
Note: Four shootings in 10 days is higher than normal, but shooting deaths of officers are actually down 13 percent compared with the same January-to-September period in 2014. There were 30 shootings last year and 26 this year. Those figures include state and local officers, and federal agents.