THOUSANDS ATTEND MEMORIAL SERVICE FOR FIREFIGHTING HERO
By Joseph P. Cirone
BRISTOW, VA – (April 21, 2007) – Thousands of firefighters, law enforcement officers, emergency medical service technicians and rescuers, from around the country, were joined by family, friends and members of the public at a memorial service, honoring Prince William County Fire and Rescue Department Technician I (Firefighter), Kyle Robert Wilson.
Doug Pearce, a 13-year veteran firefighter at the Fairbanks, Alaska Fire Department; Firefighters and officers from New York City; Norfolk, Virginia; Chicago; Paterson, New Jersey; and from throughout the Washington, DC metropolitan area, were among those representing their departments at the memorial service.
According to information provided by the County, Technician Wilson was born on May 25, 1982 in Olney, MD and grew up in Prince William County, VA. Following graduation from C.D. Hylton High School in 2000, he went on to graduate from George Mason University with a degree in athletic training in 2005.
In January, 2006 he joined the Prince William County Fire and Rescue Department, graduating from the Public Safety Academy on June 23, 2006. While helping to staff Tower 512 and conducting a search for possibly trapped occupants in a second floor bedroom, at an early morning fire, five days ago, Wilson became the first firefighter in the department’s 41-year history, killed while fighting a fire.
The service, held at the Nissan Pavilion in Bristow, followed visitation at the Miller Funeral Home in Dale City, VA.
POLICE AND FIRE – TOGETHER FOREVER
At the funeral home, 16 members of the Prince William County Police Department Motorcycle Unit and 10 members of the Prince William County Sheriffs Office stood at attention in the hot sun for more than an hour, awaiting for the firefighter’s casket to be brought outside and loaded onto the fire truck (Engine 519) that took it to the memorial service.
All of the law enforcement officers wore black bands of mourning over their badges, as a sign of respect for Technician Wilson and togetherness with the firefighting brethren, sharing their pain.
The Prince William County Professional Firefighters Local 2598 of the International Association of Fire Fighters provided bottles of water to public safety personnel and others gathered outside of the funeral home, in the hot sun.
“THIS IS ONE OF THE REASONS WE STARTED THIS UNIT”
Before preparing to bring the casket to Engine 519, members of the Honor Guard were gathered outdoors in a close circle, still stricken with sadness and grief. It was there that Prince William County Assistant Fire Chief Hadden Culp, one of the Honor Guard’s founders, did his best to lift their spirits. “This is one of the reasons we started this unit,” he said. He personally and warmly thanked each of them for their work.
During the past few days, Culp; two other Assistant Fire Chiefs and the Chief of the Department have been visiting fire stations throughout the county; speaking to career and volunteer members, to help the personnel cope with the tragedy.
Sixteen members of the Prince William County Fire and Rescue Department stood alongside Engine 519 (Housed at the County’s Public Safety Academy), at attention and saluted as the six-member Honor Guard detachment, serving as pallbearers, loaded the casket into the fire hose bed well.
Members of the Wilson family and his girlfriend hugged each of the 16 firefighters standing alongside of Engine 519, thanking them for their support.
Adult and teen members of the Occoquan-Woodbridge-Lorton (OWL) Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department provided logistical support at the funeral home and at Nissan Pavilion. OWL’s Tower 512, the fire truck Technician Wilson was staffing when he was killed; as well as Engine 512 and Ambulance 512, all decorated with black bunting, were parked outside of the funeral home and followed closely behind Engine 519 during its trip to the Nissan Pavilion.
While a formal fire department processional from the funeral home to the pavilion was not scheduled; a small contingent of fire department apparatus and the vehicles occupied by the Wilson family and friends, followed a sizeable number of Prince William County Police Department motorcycles between the two locations.
ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE AND AN OUTPOURING OF RESPECT
Once the flag-draped casket was secured in position, the motorcade departed. As soon as it accessed the roadway in front of the funeral home, nine on-duty firefighters from Prince Georges County, MD Fire and EMS Department (Engine 551) and the Bethesda-Chevy Chase (Montgomery County, MD) Rescue Squad, standing alongside the roadway in front of their fire and rescue trucks, snapped to attention and saluted. They lowered their salutes only after the last vehicle in the long motorcade passed. It was not only a sign of respect from fellow firefighters, – brothers - but a sign of what was ahead.
A number of Prince William County Sheriff’s officers assisted other police department personnel in clearing traffic and closing off cross-streets as the motorcade proceeded along a route published on the County’s website and in local newspapers, in the days prior.
As the motorcade progressed, it passed groups of adults and children, many holding American flags and placing their hands and hats over their hearts, lined the roadside and showing their respect for the fallen firefighter and his family – part of the outpouring of support that Prince William County Fire Chief Mary Beth Michos acknowledged earlier in the week. The unexpected sight brought tears to the eyes.
The on-duty fire and rescue personnel from the County’s volunteer fire departments, as well as the small number of on-duty career personnel; unable to attend the memorial service while they protected the citizens; positioned themselves at numerous locations along the route and saluted as the motorcade passed. Dale City, Buckhall, Manassas Park, Manassas, Coles District, Lake Jackson, Nokesville, Evergreen and Stonewall Jackson were among the departments represented alongside the roads.
It was hard to hold back tears and not to be impressed by the thoughtfulness; showing of respect, brotherhood and firefighting pride displayed by these volunteer and career crews who took the time, in between emergency calls, to render final honors to a fellow firefighter and hero.
Police and Sheriff’s Deputies leapfrogged from intersection to intersection, blocking traffic to allow the motorcade to continue its orderly and safe transit to Bristow.
At Nissan, fire, rescue and law enforcement personnel from Prince William County, Fairfax County, Arlington County, the Cities of Alexandria and Fairfax and other neighboring communities, established and effectively managed a large security, safety, logistical, command and control system. Canteen units from Fairfax County helped ensure the number of people using the emergency medical services resources situated near them, due to dehydration, was minimal.
The assistance rendered by the multitude of neighboring volunteer and career personnel and agencies, enabled the majority of Prince William County fire and rescue personnel to attend and focus on the memorial service, rather than having to work.
THE FIREFIGHTING IRISH
Fire Department Emerald Society members from Northern Virginia, Montgomery County, MD and Washington, DC formed into a large, impressive, and skilled Pipe and Drum Corps. The “Firefighting Irish,” played several traditional tunes, including two that brought tears to many eyes in the Pavilion – “Amazing Grace,” and “Minstrel Boy.”
As the casket was unloaded from Engine 519 and the processional progressed towards the stage, the pipes and drums played, “Going Home.” Firefighters, especially my fellow firefighters of Irish decent, couldn’t have been prouder to be represented by a finer group of musical and firefighting ambassadors than these.
The processional was led by three of Wilson’s fellow firefighters, who each carried a piece of his firefighting turnout bunker gear; his helmet; turnout coat and bunker pants. It was a dramatic scene as they slowly made their way down a long, narrow path and onto the stage while thousands stood in respect and watched.
The stage was adorned by beautiful flower arrangements; a large image of Technician Wilson hanging from above as well as one on a stand below; and two red wreaths, shaped into a Maltese Cross, complete with the logo of the Prince William County Fire and Rescue Department in their centers.
The casket rested slightly right of center, closest to the seating area for family and close friends; while the speaker’s podium was slightly left of center, closest to Fire Department officials and speakers. A pet dog, on a leash, was prominent during the service and seated at the family’s feet, where it remained calm throughout the service.
Wilson’s gear was placed in a neat pile on the stage floor, near a fire apparatus bell, mounted on a ceremonial stand, near the family. His helmet and its front piece, displaying Tower 512 and his title of Technician, was on top of the gear, facing the crowd.
“WHAT ARE WE DOING HERE?”
Reverend Dr. Jeff Carter, one of six volunteer Fire Department Chaplains, opened the service and the Honor Guard posted the colors. Reverend Dr. Edwin Clever, another of the volunteer Fire Chaplains, posed the question, “What are we doing here? In answering the question, he delivered an inspiring and comforting spiritual message.
Family and friends took to the podium to speak about Technician Wilson. Wilson’s girlfriend, Kristi Silor, spoke about their three years together; the recent purchase of a home together and her fond memory of Wilson trying to race her home on a new bicycle they purchased.
Kelli Wilson, Technician Wilson’s sister, related how close the two were and how much she will miss that closeness.
STRIVING FOR PERFECTION; CONSUMING HONEY BUNS
Bob Wilson, Kyle’s father, reflected upon his days as the coach of a Little League team that Kyle was on. He spoke about Kyle’s quest for perfection and his never-ending efforts to maintain a healthy lifestyle and develop his body into a specimen of physical fitness, achieving a body fat content of just ten-percent.
Throughout the service, from beginning to end, Bob Wilson displayed a proud, rock-solid composure. From the podium, he joked about how Technician Wilson chastised him for eating unhealthy foods, yet fellow firefighters told him that at times Kyle would eat a number of honey buns in quick succession.
A powerful and skilled soloist, Gina McCabe, sang a Sarah McLachlin song, “Angel.”
“A KIND AND LOVING PERSON”
Fire Chief Michos called Technician Wilson “a good firefighter, but more importantly, a kind and loving person.” She said she appreciated the offers of help and outpouring of support made to the department, from around the region and around the world.
Michos reminded fire and rescue personnel that, “we are blessed to have the greatest job in the world.” In a surprise to all, Chief Michos read a message from President and Mrs. George W. Bush to the family, which acknowledged their pain and offered sympathy.
Chief Michos vowed that Technician Kyle R. Wilson would be remembered. “Kyle is a hero and will be remembered forever,” she concluded.
Throughout the pavilion, as the service continued with military-like precision, staying close to its schedule; faces revealed a wide range of emotions, including pride and contentment. It was evident that the firefighting community was experiencing healing.
“NOBODY ASKS TO BE A HERO, SOMETIMES IT JUST HAPPENS”
John W. Marshall, a long-time resident of Prince William County and the Secretary of Public Safety for the Commonwealth of Virginia, relayed an expression of sympathy from the Governor of Virginia.
While speaking about Wilson, and referencing the movie, “Black Hawk Down,” Marshall said, “Nobody asks to be a hero; it sometimes just happens that way.”
Secretary Marshall said the best way to honor Technician Wilson was for his fellow firefighters to continue doing their jobs. He said the residents of Virginia need them to do what they do.
The Secretary reminded firefighters that Technician Wilson rides at their side on each and every call. “Through you, he makes a difference and continues to serve,” he said.
Concluding his remarks, Marshall evoked some emotional responses from the crowd when he said, “We salute you Technician 1 Kyle Wilson. We thank you for your service; Firefighter, Virginia Hero and American Hero.”
Bill Taylor, Fourth District Vice President of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) and Paul Hebert of the Prince William County Professional Firefighters IAFF Local 2598 presented the Wilson family and Wilson’s girlfriend with the IAFF Gold Medal of Honor, the highest award given by the organization.
SOMETIMES GOOD COMES FROM BAD
Mike Mohler, President of the Virginia Professional Fire Fighters, read a message of sympathy from U.S. Senator Jim Webb of Virginia.
Mohler related a message contained in the book, “All the Kings Men,” saying that sometimes, “Good comes from bad.” He suggested that sometimes tragic circumstances cause changes in procedures, training and lifestyle that are good or a catalyst for good results.
Mohler told the crowd, “Kyle understood how important fitness is in our profession. I need to lose about 20 pounds myself. I’ll lose it as a tribute to Kyle.” As an example of how some good can come from bad, he challenged others with excess weight to lose some of it as a tribute, as well.
Following Mohler’s remarks, the Honor Guard displayed military precision when removing the American Flag that covered the casket and folded it into a triangle. Once folded, it was formally presented to Chief Michos, with a hand salute. Chief Michos then presented the folded flag to the Wilson family and another to Wilson’s girlfriend.
A SIGNAL FIVE, FIVE, FIVE HAS BEEN TRANSMITTED IN PRINCE WILLIAM COUNTY
Following a long-standing fire service tradition, a final dispatch tone was sounded by the Prince William County Public Safety Communications Center over the County’s two way radio system. And a member of the Honor Guard tapped out Fire Box Telegraph Alarm 5-5-5 on a bell, alerting everyone that a firefighter was killed in the line of duty. As the bell tolled, it was hard for some to hold back tears.
Following a prayer, the Pipe Band led the Hymn, “Amazing Grace,” as people sung. As the Honor Guard led the recessional with the casket, the Pipe Band played, “Minstrel Boy,” evoking emotions in some people in attendance.
THUMBS UP FOR A HERO
A highlight of the recessional was a display of “Thumbs Up,” given by nearly everyone in attendance, including Wilson’s loved ones, some of whom showed signs of holding back the tears as they followed the casket out of the Pavilion.
Engine 519, with the casket secured in the hose bed well, departed the Pavilion, with the entire Pipe Band marching directly behind. It was a fitting honor and impressive display of respect for a fallen hero. It was last bit of ceremony that caused some people to express emotions of pride and sorrow, simultaneously. It was a fitting end to a beautiful and very dignified memorial service.
TECHNICIAN 1 (Firefighter/EMT) KYLE R. WILSON Images may be Viewed, and Prints Ordered from, the Special Gallery Section below; or simply paste the following link into your Browser or Website Page:http://jpcirone.smugmug.com/gallery/2780696
An article documenting the day's event is available at http://www.commandpostnews.com OR you can paste the following link into your Browser or Website Page:http://www.commandpostnews.com/artic...rticleID=11505
+ Reply to Thread
Results 1 to 7 of 7
04-30-2007, 10:03 AM #1
- Join Date
- Dec 2006
Thousands Attend Memorial Service For Prince William County (va) Firefighting Hero
04-30-2007, 10:28 AM #2
- Join Date
- Feb 2007
Thank you for the article jpcirone.
04-30-2007, 12:55 PM #3
- Join Date
- Mar 2002
- Loco madidus effercio in rutilus effercio.
Thank you for the article. I was intending to be present at the funeral services, but unfortunately some bad karma came my way the Friday before.
Be at peace, Brother.
04-16-2009, 02:03 PM #4
- Join Date
- Sep 2005
You are not forgotten Brother
Kyle, you have not been forgotten my Brother!
04-16-2009, 02:27 PM #5
I too wish that I could have made it up state for this.
Rest in Peace Kyle, we'll take it on in!Stay Safe and Well Out There....
Always remembering 9-11-2001 and 343+ Brothers
04-16-2009, 04:35 PM #6
04-16-2009, 08:25 PM #7
- Join Date
- Jan 2003
- Canuck Expat May be anywhere
Very moving tribute. RIP lad, we've got it.
Users Browsing this Thread
There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)
By jpcirone in forum Firefighters ForumReplies: 2Last Post: 04-20-2007, 03:03 PM
By captstanm1 in forum Firefighters ForumReplies: 59Last Post: 01-15-2004, 06:23 AM
By UTFFEMT in forum Fire WireReplies: 0Last Post: 09-07-2002, 01:02 PM
By bostonff in forum Firefighters ForumReplies: 9Last Post: 01-21-2001, 09:16 PM