I'll be the first to admit that I have some issues with volunteer firefighters and EMT's. I think that their training and fitness levels need to be held to the same level as those who hold the role as career. They also need to be held to the same disciplinary standards as well. And, when they continuously can't get to an emergency in a timely fashion, they need to admit they need help and put pride aside.
However, volunteering is one of the purest forms of being a Patriot. This country was built on people who volunteered to make their country better. Nowadays, we're seeing less and less of that as peoples priorites and focus have shifted.
The volunteer fire and EMS service remains one of the strongest remenants of true community service. Sure, there may be people who do it for self-serving reason, but those people are in the minority. In a volunteer department, you'll find people of all age ranges, from all different backgrounds. I find one of the best parts of the volunteer fire and EMS service is that it introduces young people to community service, and is often the foundation of a solid career path.
Although some volunteer agencies may play up the social club aspect, it's also a great support system for members during times of hardship. Volunteer FF's are usually there for one another regardless, sometimes even more so then the career side.
How many people in your community are actually INVOLVED, actively, continuously, in the improvement of the commununity. Whether you volunteer for your local ambulance corps, or for Habitat For Humanity, it's my feeling that everyone should be obligated to give back to the community and those less fortunate then us.