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Firehouse Funnies
by Will Wyatt

Sing it loud and proud, Chief!

How could Battalion Chief John Grillone get in trouble for singing the National Anthem?

By Will Wyatt

Every now and again something strikes my fancy or, in this case, riles me up.

It seems a Battalion Chief and firefighter in Philadelphia are in the disciplinary process for posting a YouTube video, as reported on by FireRescue1 earlier this week.

The video shows the chief singing a song. News reports say firefighters have violated the fire department's social media policy that doesn't exist. The firefighter is off for a four week unpaid vacation and the chief's fate is awaiting the development of a social media policy. Confused so far? I am.

However, the best part of this was the song the chief was singing. I assumed it must have been some violent gangsta rap song. No, it is of all things the Star Spangled Banner. Yes, our National Anthem.

In the news report that accompanies this article, Chief John Grillone can be seen and heard singing during the interview. He does a very nice job. He's no Enrico Pallazzo — as you can see on the video on the right, he actually knows the words ...

His favorite song...
The most striking point to me was the chief's admission that the Star Spangled Banner is one of his favorite songs. Now how many of you reading this would list the National Anthem as their favorite song?

Now before the cards and letters pour in, I am not against the Star Bangled Banner. I have no problem standing at sporting events and removing my hat (if I am wearing one) and standing silently honoring our country.

I have even passed this belief on to our children. The inspired lyrics written by Francis Scott Key watching the defense of Fort McHenry honor our great nation. I am good with that. What I am saying is the song is not exactly a toe tapping, finger snapping, and guitar strumming camp fire sing along song.

It doesn't move as well as let's say "99 Bottles of Beer." But then again it's our National Anthem and not to be taken lightly. It's a difficult song to sing. Just ask any of the long lists of so called professional entertainers that have screwed it up. I think its commendable Chief Grillone lists the song as one of his favorites.

I don't understand the uproar. I could see an administration frowning on Chief Grillone's CD that was released last year, "Chief Grillone's Greatest Hits," which was a compilation of the chief's biggest hits. Some of those songs could be on the edge.

  • "Hot Summer Night (the city can't fix the a/c)"
  • "Burning Down the House"
  • "Jumpin' Jack Flashpoint"
  • "You Aint Nothing But a Firedog"
  • "Stop, Drop and Rock'n'roll" (extended play dance version)
  • "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes"
  • "I left My Axe in San Francisco"
  • "Smoke From a Distant Fire"
  • "Out of Oxygen: The Ambulance Driver Blues"

Seriously folks. The things that go on in fire stations are not to be understood by the general public. You come on the job and make friends that last a lifetime. You watch people come on the job and grow up. Watch them marry and divorce.

Watch them remarry and have kids. Watch their kids grow up. Bury parents with them; sometimes, unfortunately, bury children with them. And of course the ultimate horror; bury them. A little fun goes a long way.

I was blessed and fortunate in that I was under a battalion chief for many years that had a marvelous sense of humor. At some point he had been told by a deaf person that he had a nice singing voice, so he was always singing.

However, his trademark signature bit was the long enduring Christmas poem "Twas the Night Before Christmas."

Whenever our shift worked a Christmas Eve, the chief would always slip into the watch office around midnight and recite it on the station PA system.

It was great!
You always hoped you were in the station to hear it. It was great. Normally when you wake up to something coming from the house speakers, it is "Engine this, medic that, medical call at something, something street, dispatch determinant 29 applejack bravo niner D delta 5," which I don't even know what any of that means.

But on this magical night, you were hearing about stockings hung by the chimney with care. I even wanted to jump up and run to the window to throw up the sash and see the moon on the breast of the new fallen snow.

I almost felt like I was in "A Wonderful Life "marathon. Then I remembered I was in Houston, Texas, and it is 82 degrees outside. The chief really got into it and read the lines with emotion.

At the end, everybody in the dorm would applaud and cheer. The guys loved it. It was a holiday tradition I will always remember.

So a tip of my leather helmet to you, Chief Grillone, for singing your favorite song. Sing on, Chief. In fact I think the next time the Philadelphia Phillies take the field at Connie Mack Stadium, the chief should sing the National Anthem. (Did the Phillies move to Veterans Stadium yet? And the wife says I live in the 70s, ha!)

In fact, maybe the IAFF Locals around the country could sponsor the chief singing the National Anthem at sporting events in their towns.

As always let me hear from you, and to all a safe summer and to all a goodnight!

About the author

Will Wyatt, who is originally from New Orleans, has been in the fire service for 25 years. Will currently works as an engineer/operator at the Village Fire Department in the Houston, Texas, area. Will also works part time at another fire department and part time at a 911 emergency medical service. He has held numerous ranks with fire departments in the Houston area including full time training officer, fire marshal and deputy chief. Will holds a master fire fighter certification with the State of Texas, an instructor certification, pump operator certification, an associate degree from Houston Community College and a basic EMT certification. Recently will authored a book on the fire service entitled, "And a Paycheck, Too!" Check out an excerpt here. Contact Will at Will.Wyatt@firerescue1.com.



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