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A worthy mission: recognition for firefighters

JOHN GARDNERGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Big ideas start small.That’s what Paul Arzonica believes. His idea of a national firefighters holiday to recognize the men and women of the department for the duty they perform started small. His hope is that soon, his small idea will catch like wildfire and spread to the far-reaching corners of the nation and that his work will finally be complete.To Arzonica, firefighting isn’t a job, it’s an unselfish profession that deserves recognition. That’s been his mission for the past 23 years. He’s tried over and over to get the men and women of the nation’s fire departments the recognition they deserve.”Firefighters not only put out house fires, they fight fires from the air and sea, too. They’re called out on emergencies, hazardous chemical spills and everything you can think of,” Arzonica said during a conversation at Summit Canyon Coffee House in Glenwood Springs. “These are firefighters with families and children to raise. And they will put their life on the line in a moment if needed. If anyone deserves a holiday, they do. But yet, they’re forgotten.”The 71-year-old Pennsylvania native is visiting friends in Glenwood Springs. He didn’t come here to promote his agenda of a national firefighters holiday, but a trip to the Storm King Firefighters Memorial at Two-Rivers Park sparked his passion once again.”I said to myself, ‘I might as well call the chief and hear what he has to say,'” Arzonica said. “It’s political. But if you can get enough people behind it, it’s possible. If I didn’t do something while I was here I would be missing an opportunity.”So, Arzonica went to visit Glenwood Springs Fire Chief Mike Piper.”He’s like a one man band trying to get the fire service some recognition,” Piper said. “Not that we are looking for pats on the back, but I appreciate that this guy who’s not a firefighter is pushing for it.”Piper also said that he supports Arzonica’s view and hopes that his quest is met nationally.Arzonica’s campaign for the holiday started in 1984 by introducing a draft to the Pennsylvania State Legislature for consideration, to no avail.”It was tabled three times,” he said.He’s even sent a letter to Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, and hasn’t heard a word back. That gets him riled.”It’s frustrating that it’s not even been introduced in the house,” Arzonica said.But he’s never given up on his mission. And his trip to Glenwood has invigorated him in new directions.”I want to see what happens here,” he said. “I want to see what the reaction is from the public here.”Arzonica’s point behind the holiday is that the nation celebrates many holidays but none specifically for the firefighters.In his letter to Pelosi, he stated: “Throughout our Nation we have days, weeks and even months set aside to honor everyone including Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day, Presidents Day, April Fools Day, Boss’s Day, Christmas Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, United Nations Day, Halloween and many others, and yet the firefighters of our nation, whose courage and dedication is often beyond description, continue to remain forgotten.”And that is the one thing that Arzonica wants to change before it’s too late.”There’s no way I can go state to state, city to city. I would be 100,” he said. “But the one thing I would like to see before I die, is this to be passed and the firefighters given the recognition they deserve.”Big ideas start small.Contact John Gardner: 384-9114jgardner@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO


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