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Raw video: Dyersburg, TN fire chief turns in badge at memorial service. Bob Veal’s departure comes days after IAFF ad.

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From news coverage it appears that Bob Veal, who was until Friday the fire chief in Dyersburg, Tennessee, has been battling with the IAFF for some time. Last Sunday, a full page ad from Local 2269 (see below) dealing with the elimination of battalion chiefs in the department was published in the Dyersburg State Gazette (read more at IAFF Online).

On Friday, Chief Veal got up to speak at the end of the annual annual Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service hosted by the Dyersburg Fire Department. The chief took the opportunity to let everyone know that he was not only retiring after 38 years on the job, but was doing so effective immediately, handing his badge to the mayor.

The video of Chief Veal’s speech is above. The audio is a bit hard to hear, so we have a transcript below from the Dyersburg State Gazette:

It’s been a good ceremony, it has been a good day, but if you don’t mind, mayor (John Holden), I’m going to say some things.

I’m gonna, I’m going to retire.

I’m fixing to step down because this department needs a breath of fresh air.

TN Dyersburg Chief Veal removes badge

When I hired into this department in 1975, I would look forward to coming to work. I would look forward to working with men just like these right here.

Yeah, we would sit around the table and complain just like you all do. We did that but that’s as far as it went because I had officers that would stand up and plant our feet and direct us in the paths that we should go. Not the way we wanted to go but the way we should go.

TN Dyersburg ad about battalion chiefs

Click here to read entire ad.

I don’t want to say something that hurts someone’s feelings, but I quit. Right there, he’s got it. I don’t want to violate anyone’s civil rights.

I’m going to tell it like it is. I don’t care if you like it or not. This is Bob Veal talking now. I’ve been quiet for 11 years because I didn’t want to bother anyone. I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. I didn’t want anyone to go to the mayor and board.

I didn’t want anyone to sue me. Well sue me! Sue Bob Veal! I don’t care.

This department has gone south the last three or four years and it’s a shame because there are outstanding firemen in this department. I mean that from the bottom of my heart. You are good men. You deserve better than what you have.

We need leaders to plant their feet. We need leaders to plant their feet and lead into the future.

I’m going to tell you something, lieutenants, and they’re not all here but they ought to be. You need to plant your feet and you need to act like men.

I submitted five or six names to the mayor three or four months ago and I said ‘mayor, these guys would make good fire chiefs’. And I see their picture in the front page of the paper at a board meeting because the fire chief wants to change something. 

The fire chief is allowed to change something. If he wants to change it, it can be changed. That’s the way it is. It’s not the way you want it, that’s the way the chief wants it. My suggestion is if you don’t like change find yourself something else to do. Because the fire service deserves better than what you’re giving it right now.

Now I’m out of the way, brother. I don’t want to see you hurt. There’s going to be a breath of fresh air coming through. Boys, get a head on your shoulders. Look to someone that can lead you in the right direction.

When I took this job, Billy Taylor come to me in January 2002 and he said ‘I’m going to retire and I’m going to recommend you to be fire chief.’

And I said ‘wait just a minute. I need to talk to my wife and I need to talk to my savior because they make the decisions, not me.’

I talked to her and we started praying about it. And on March 7, 2002 I made fire chief. Since that time I’ve had to keep my mouth shut, I could not say what’s on my mind and I ain’t wound like that. I’m sorry, mayor, I’m not wound like that. I can’t do it no more.

Me and her have been praying since January of this year about my retirement. You just seen me give the mayor my badge. My retirement is effective today.

After much prayer from me and my wife, because again I say, her and my savior are the only ones that make my decisions, what am I going to do? I don’t know and I don’t care. They’re going to take care of me. I ain’t worried about it.

Like that man sang a little while ago, my chains are gone and I’ve been set free, my brother. Thank you for a good ride. Thank you, mayor. That man stood behind me every time there was a problem. If any of you think he’ll back up, you’re wrong. 

My suggestion, boys, is find yourself somebody that can lead you not in the wrong direction but in the right direction. You have got it made here, boys. This is the best job there is in Dyer County. The best job in Dyer County. 

Go over there and pour you some concrete. They’ve been out there since 6:30 this morning pouring concrete and I’ve done that before, too, and it ain’t easy.

Thank you for the ride. Thank you, Chief White for what you mean to me. Thank you, mayor, for what you’ve done. I’m done, brother.

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Comments - Add Yours

  • ukfbbuff

    Good luck in your retirement.

    Sometimes being Ethical in your jobs puts you in the proverbial:

    “Rock and a Hard Place”

    Looks like he could no longer put up with City Hall’s wanting him to “Dump” on his Firefighters.

    • Mark too

      There may be some of that in play, but I got a different message from his speech. He seemed to be insinuating that he had an issue with his firefighters speaking out against some of his decisions and his company officers for not preventing that.

      • 95%er

        I am going with Mark. He sounded pretty pissed off that when he was a younger firefighter he obeyed and respected the authority of his chief and can’t understand where that respect went.

        A sad sign of the times.

        • Mark too

          I would tend to agree, however without being more familiar with the situation there, it’s hard to say if that “loss of respect” is due to the general attitude of the “kids these days” and showing in the new generation of firefighters or if it’s due to a fire chief who’s stuck in the past or going along with bad ideas like cutting out your on-duty command staffing that deserve some pushback.

        • Tower5Ladder

          95%er I couldn’t agree more. “Obey and respect” is what the fire service WAS all about.

  • Chief Dill

    You are so right Chief Veal. The Fire Service is truly going south just like our Congress.

    Congrats on your retirement. Smile and just say it was a good run. And remember the good times as I’m sure they were.

    Just remember these words: “Once a Chief, always a Chief.”

    • Tom

      In the Navy we said, “There are no bad boat crews, only bad leaders.” Leadership is a top down initiative. Perhaps its the chief who cant come to terms with change or direction of the department.

  • DS

    Seems appropriate for a memorial service…

  • FMCH

    Did I read a different story? It sounded like the chief was thanking the mayor and telling his former department,if they think the mayor will change, they got another thing coming, and he wasn’t on the side of “his guys”.

  • John

    The chief strikes me as an egomaniac. Autocratic decisions, can’t take criticism, won’t take advice, and turns a memorial service into a personal spectacle. 38 year dinosaur. If he was sincere about all his religious feelings, he would have met with the mayor quietly and turned in his resignation. Good riddance.

    Read the ad. He basically deleted the two BC positions, made the third an administrator, and added a 40 hr captain to run shift operations. So who’s in command at incidents after 1600? The first arriving officer on a 2-3 FF rig. Seems like a step backward to me. It’s a safety issue as well as depriving the members of their promotions. I’d have a problem if the union didn’t fight it.

    Before anyone claims I’m one of his guys, I’m from Michigan, so I don’t know the guy.

  • JW

    There’s a time and place for things. This was not the appropriate time or place to vent and then quit at a Fallen FireFighters Memorial Service. Completely disrespectful of the men they were there to honor. If he wanted a show, he could have done it during a council meeting. He’s trying to preach the correct way to act, but does it in a most unprofessional manner. Hipocrite.

    • Capt Dick

      I agree with most of the posts. We are at a time in the fire service where a lot of depts went fully career in the mid to late 70s and they have a lot of RODs and dinosaurs making critical decisions that don’t match the evolution of the fire service. Glad for this dept he gave up and I actually think it was fitting to do it at the memorial service . His plan in reducing BCs could very well produce the next LODD.

  • Anonymous

    What a jack wagon!

    (At a memorial service no less)

  • Former Chief

    As a former Chief that stepped down due to unfortunate circumstances, I can understand the frustrations that Chief Veal feels and has felt these past few months. Though I truly don’t know the whole story, I’m sure the Chief feels what he’s doing is best for the department, and himself.

    However, there’s a time and place to do such things, and I guess my one criticism is why do it a Public FF Memorial? Couldn’t it have waited until the town board meeting or some such event? They were there to honor fallen firefighters, and instead, it turns into a grandstand event for the Chief to not only announce his retirement, but to voice displessure. I’m not sure that’s the time or place for such an event to occur, as now the focus is back on the “fued” instead of memorilizing those that gave their lives in public service. If I were in the crowd, as a family member of a fallen firefighter, I don’t think I’d be very happy about that speech.

    Anyway, good luck in your future endeavor’s Chief, and I hope things get better in your town!

  • THE e20

    What a rambling redneck!! Glad that you are retiring, you should have left a long time ago! You are out of touch with today’s fire service and need to move on! Keep praying and see where that gets you!! Get a clue people, he is bashing his department and standing behind the mayor’s cuts. Just as John said above, he is an autocratic egomaniac that can’t take criticism from his men! Go on and GFO!!!!

  • Anonymous

    He talks about change in one breath, and then how great things used to be in the other. He can’t seem to get a handle on how leadership styles have had to change since the 70’s. Like it or not, the autocratic, iron fist style of leadership does not work well with the generation x and y folks. You aren’t going to get through to them by pointing your finger at them while saying do it may way or take the highway.

    He acted like an egotistical a-hole in public, imagine what he was doing in closed door meetings. I’m not sure what his decision making track record was over his tenure, but packing it up and leaving seems to be the best one.


    All due respect to Veal but there is a time and a place and this wasn’t it. The day was about remembrance and honor, not his personal gripes.

  • Ohio FF

    To do this at a MEMORIAL service shows the type of person this man is. To cry about how bad the situation is while your in charge of the situation is a little self incriminating! Oh my God this guy has no idea how much of an A#$ H)*e he is. If this is the best LEADER this town had to offer at the time I feel very bad for them.

  • Joe

    Definitely sounds like he is complaining how his officers aren’t telling the firemen (you know chief, the guys out there still doing the job) to accept these cuts and go along with the company line. Sounds like he took it personal when guys he recommended to replace him showed up at a board meeting when the chief wanted to cut jobs. Guy sounds like the redneck version of the ex-chief in Rochester that slashed staffing and got pissy when the B/C’s and union protested. Want to tell them how hard it is pouring concrete? How about you ride the truck again and see how it is now that you’ve cut staffing while I’m sure adding more stuff for the guys to do.

    Complain all you want about this new generation of firemen, but the current generation of leaders are full of jacka$$es like this guy.

    Also, extremely wrong place to do this. Just steal the spotlight from the guys who gave their lives on the job so you can quit and stomp and cry about how the guys don’t back you up.

  • slackjawedyokel

    Total lack of class

  • CareerLt

    I’m really getting tired of the Generation X’ers and Y’ers saying us old guys have to adapt to them. The fire department is a paramilitary organization. No hand holding or coddling. As long as us “Old Timers” keep current safety, technical and tactical advances, get over your whiney snot nosed selves.

    • Tom

      I’m speaking as a 25 year man. Here in lies the problem. Never before has he fire service experienced such rapid change as it has in the last 10 years. For the first time we have four different generations actively serving in a department. The group dynamic is completely different from when I came on and when senior men like chief Veal did. We have to except the fact that we need to operate and conduct ourselves in a completely different way, for many of us a new way. As leaders in the fire service it is our duty to lead by example; gone are the days of do as I say. Never in our history have we been asked to do more with less and less, while the demands and expectations of the public continue to increase. Its a new day in the fire service. Those departments that will stand out from the rest will do so because their leaders will embrace all employees as the organizations most valuable assets, and not create a us versus them attitude.

    • Anonymous

      You said it, CareerLT. This is what happens when everyone gets a trophy no matter how inept they are.

      • Capt Dick

        Couldn’t agree more Lt. Well said.

  • cool side of pillow

    You folks ever think that maybe the Chief did go to the Mayor about his concern and was met with a make it happen attidude? You can only lick an animal in it’s face so many times before it’ll bite you.

    • JustSayin’

      WHAT THE.????



  • young gun

    Term limits aren’t just for politicians. Dinosaur exit stage left, dont let the bay door hit you in the rear>

  • Capt

    Well i agree that he should have picked a better place to vent! As a leader you should set example for followers if you want them to do right! As for the direction of the fire service, I thank the good Lord that I came up when firefighters had respect and traditions they followed. I use to keep my mouth shut and did as i was told but now a days I guess you need to “text” your demands to your firefighters. It use to be that you came into the fire service and learned the job and moved up in the ranks with the respect you had earned over the years. Now you have guys that never fought a real house fire that thinks they can do it better than a captain or chief that has been doing it for 20!ITS BECOME A WHAT CAN THE FIRE SERVICE DO FOR ME attitude!!

  • SMH from FDNY

    After 25 years on the job and almost 30 in the volleys on Long Island all I say is WTF!!! The fire service has changed so much in my time (I’m no old guy either, just turned 49 and still going strong). The new generation of members are a bunch of crying babies. Mommy and daddy still wipe their rear ends. Man up already. Do your job and shut your hole. The Chief was frustrated. Anybody think maybe he cut the B/C’s to save a members job? We are asked to do more with less everyday. Be grateful for a job. I’m sick and tired of guys asking, “What’s in it for me? What do I get? Give me, give me”. This is a great job, now go and just do it!!

  • Volunteer for life

    I agree with the brother from FDNY. Soceity as a whole has become selfish!!

  • Dyersburg Citizen

    I was there at this service. Chief Veal was so disgusted with the lack of respect the firefighters were showing that day that if finally was the last straw. Those men have turned their backs on their city and their department. Out of the 50 or so firefighters that are with the department only a couple who where not on duty came to the memorial. The one who shot the video above refused to wear his dress uniform and stood in the back filming on his phone. These men should be ashamed of what they have done. Their disrespectful actions are what led to this. He did away with the BC position simply because it was not essential anymore. Most of the time the BC let his Lt’s run the show anyway. Now they are doing the same thing just without someone looking over their shoulder, but if they are unsure about something there are 3 Lts on the shift, and 3 Capts that are on call. They did add 2 more firefighter positions who were needed badly, and the administrative position in the fire codes and prevention dept had been needed for years. Chief Veal took good care of the guys. If they needed something he would do his best to help them. He did not deserve the way he was treated the last few months.