The Bennington Battle Day parade was a great success, again, thanks to the dedicated volunteers of our fire department. What makes a great parade is its variety, its noises, its colors and its energy. It shows us the face of this town.
Special appreciation should go out to Ricky Knapp. Once again Mr. Knapp has organized a fantastic event. I don’t know how many of these parades Ricky has arranged, but please keep doing them. Nothing brings the town together like a good parade.
Our volunteer fire department also deserves a lot of credit, not just for the parade, but for their day-in and day-out commitment to our town’s safety. When there is an emergency, they are always ready, willing and able to come to our rescue. How safe would we feel if we didn’t have these dedicated men and women to serve us?
Our volunteer fire department is just that. They do not get paid. The only member of the department who gets a small stipend is the chief. As I understand it, they don’t even get compensated for their own fuel costs when they respond to an emergency.
With today’s high gas costs, that gets pretty expensive. One member of the fire department told me it cost him about $1,500 a year to be a volunteer. Not only are these men and women willing to put their lives at risk for us, but they don’t ask for even the basic costs of their volunteer service.
Can you imagine it would cost this town if we had to pay for a full-time fire department, as we do for our full-time police department?
The fire department is just one part of the volunteer force that runs our town. Think of those who serve on the various boards and commissions, the people who help out at the school and the library, the vast number of souls who dedicate a part of their time to doing good.
What motivates them to do this? It certainly isn’t the fame. They have a passion to make our community better and stronger. Local volunteerism is the building block that has made our country great.
Our elected and paid officials should take every opportunity to ensure that our volunteer fire department is kept up to date with the latest safety and firefighting equipment. This is not only for the community’s interest, but we have an obligation to ensure that these individuals who willingly put themselves in harm’s way are protected from injury or harm whatever the cost. We owe it to them and their families.
I know our local elected officials and our town staff believe in that as well. Their obligation to our community is to bring businesses into our town so that we can grow and prosper. Actually, it’s their duty to do that.
If we could only inspire our elected officials with the same vitality as our volunteers, we could make this town hop and jump. As the parade breathes fresh air into your spirit, so government, if done well, can re-energize our community. We need to have leaders who can inspire the rest of us. We don’t need officials who after an election just sit there until the time of the next election.
It is their job to bring jobs and businesses to our town. This can best be done by a town that is proud of itself, that is knitted together in a common goal, of making our home a better place.
Mike Bethel lives in Bennington.