We often hear the phrase, “remember our fallen…” and we do. There is no doubt in our vigilance when it comes to this.
That said, many, if not all of us, have done things and partaken of experiences and immediately introspected, “…I can’t believe I haven’t done this sooner.”
This was my experience this past weekend.
Having heard about the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial for many years, I’ve wanted to attend one of the ceremonies to pay tribute to the brothers and sisters we’ve lost, as well as those who have made it their mission to honor them. I could not have imagined the reward I would feel in my soul for this seemingly small gesture.
The IAFF and its membership have done a remarkable job in honoring our fallen. The newly and painstakingly renovated memorial in the shadow of Pike’s Peak in Colorado Springs is absolutely incredible. The flags, the bronze sculpture, the 1975 American La France bell donated by South Milwaukee (WI) and Local 1633, the names of over 7,800 of our fallen engraved in polished granite, the grounds, the backdrop- I can go on and on- are all a spectacular and fitting tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the people we serve and the job we love. The significance of each element comprising the memorial runs deep.
This year, there were 310 names added, yes, 310 too many. And although the circumstances surrounding the nature of their sacrifices may vary, there is much more in common. Each one of our fallen has left behind family and friends. Each one has left a legacy of a life of service. Each will be eternally remembered and honored.
As the bell signifying the last alarm is rung for each name announced, family members of the fallen- husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, and children- are presented with a wood and glass encased IAFF flag in a triangle fold with an engraved plate to commemorate the fallen.
While there were many tears and hugs, my own included, the general feeling was certainly more celebratory than somber. Stories were shared, an abundance of praise was spread, and the presence of love and respect from those in attendance was palpable.
Seeing so many departments from across the US and Canada represented by individuals, honor guard units, and pipes & drums was a true testament to the fraternity, pride, loyalty, tradition, and heritage of the firefighter community and the individual respect and homage we pay to our fallen.
Many of us lead busy lives; it’s true. We must prioritize how we allocate our time and even our budgets. Please… if you have an opportunity to get to the memorial, especially for the annual service in September, do it. Not only will it serve the memories of our brothers and sisters, their families, and our community, it will serve your soul.
Stay safe and healthy,