Some were soldiers, others Marines. Some were sailors, others airmen. They are all veterans, and now they are all Boston firefighters.
The light of a half-dozen chandeliers glinted in the polished buttons, gleaming badges, and jewelry of the crowd that packed into Dorchester’s Florian Hall Wednesday morning for the fire academy graduation. Infants in strollers and toddlers in their Sunday best sat next to white-haired fire department veterans.
All eyes were fixed on the corner where 49 men sat in immaculate navy uniforms.
As a group, the men rose and took their oath of office before they were called one by one to walk across the stage, receive their badge, and join the more than 1,500 men and women of the Boston Fire Department.
For many in the room, such as graduate Kevin Oliver, serving as a firefighter is practically the family business.
“I’ve always had family on the force. My father-in-law and two cousins, so when I got out [of the Navy] it seemed like a natural choice,” Oliver said.
Mayor Martin Walsh and Fire Commissioner Joseph Finn welcomed the department’s newest members.
“I’m proud that today 49 new members will join the Massachusetts firefighting family, and I’m confident this new class of recruits will carry on the Boston Fire Department tradition of excellence,’’ Walsh said.
“Everyone of these recruits is a veteran. We thank your families for supporting you, and we thank you for your service,” Walsh added.
Alongside the graduating Boston firemen were 14 recruits from Chelsea, Dedham, Malden, Marshfield, and Wellesley.
Of the firemen, six were minorities: three were black, two Hispanic, and one Asian. There were no women in the graduating class.
As the closing remarks finished and beaming graduates were embraced by their families, emotions in the hall were running high. More than one eye was wiped as the graduates posed for pictures with relatives, chests jutting out to show their new gleaming badges.
For many of the new firemen, this will be their entire careers.
Department spokesman Steve MacDonald said it was not uncommon for firefighters to serve on the force for 30 years.
“They’ll soon realize how rewarding it is. It’s a good job. You’re helping people,” MacDonald added.
Each new graduate may have had their own reasons for joining the fire department, but many echoed the feelings expressed by Oliver.
“I hear so much about the brotherhood and camaraderie of the force,” he said. “I want to experience that and make those connections that last a lifetime, all while doing good and saving people.”
Andrew Grant can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.