More than 6,000 fire fighters, friends and honor guard and pipe and drum corps joined with the families of fallen fighters for the annual IAFF Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial observance in Colorado Springs September 21 to pay tribute to 250 members lost in the line of duty, including those who died from occupational illnesses that are all too common in the fire service.
As the sounds of the pipes and drums corps filled the warm September air, the name of each member was read as a ceremonial bell was struck signifying their loss.
As the bagpipes played Amazing Grace, General President Harold Schaitberger said, “The words we say here will never begin to properly thank you for your sacrifice.” Together, President Schaitberger and General Secretary-Treasurer Ed Kelly laid the ceremonial wreath.
In his remarks, Schaitberger told those gathered for the ceremony, “While you have lost a loved one, you have gained a family. You are part of the IAFF family comprised of more than 319,000 brothers and sisters across the United States and Canada.”
“With their names forever etched into our sacred Memorial wall, we will never forget the names of our fallen,” said General Secretary-Treasurer Kelly. “When we come together here every year, we can read the names of our brothers and sisters and remember not only their sacrifice but everything they meant to all of us.”
Ninety five of the names added to the Wall of Honor are of members lost in the line of duty between 1918 and 2017, part of the IAFF’s efforts to recognize all fallen members since the union’s founding.
Others honored lost their lives from occupational cancer, a scourge on today’s fire service. Schaitberger promised “the strongest workers’ compensation protections and the best treatment options for occupational illnesses.” The IAFF remains committed to working to prevent cancers that members face on the job.
Promising that the union will never cease efforts to provide the most up-to-date safety equipment and training, Schaitberger said, “We will make sure that their legacy lives on with our work. That is how we honor our fallen sisters and brothers.”
Colorado Springs Local 5 pledged its commitment to the families of members whose names were added to the Wall of Honor and to take care of each family. From securing transportation from the airport to the hotel and to the Memorial to providing child care to allow families, Local 5 was quick to deliver assistance.
Schaitberger commended Local 5’s steadfast attention to help ensure the dignity of this hallowed ground year after year. “Their dedication to protecting and maintaining this Memorial is a testament to the values of the IAFF,” he said.