DOD Firefighters Memorial Opens at Texas AFB

A memorial for Department of Defense firefighters who give the ultimate sacrifice was dedicated recently on Goodfellow Air Force Base in Texas.

In addition to a monument, several antique military fire vehicles are on display in the memorial plaza. The Military Firefighter Heritage Foundation, a non-profit organization, has been working for several years to complete its mission.

"Since the DOD Fire Academy is located here, it only made sense that the memorial to fallen heroes be built here," said Michael Robertson, a foundation official.

When the military fire school closed in Illinois in 1993, two antique fire vehicles were moved to the Texas base. It wasn't long before they were suffering under the hot sun, and officials realized they had to make a move.

They established the heritage foundation to raise funds to refurbish the apparatus. Robertson said they also wanted to display them in a way they could be appreciated. Pavilions were erected for each vehicle, and they line a memorial walk.

Interest in the foundation continued, and military firefighters from across the country have been involved in the effort.

And, Robertson said the foundation is committed to educating DOD firefighters about the importance of safety.

During his address at the dedication, National Fallen Firefighters Foundation Executive Director Ron Siarnicki lauded the military officers for its work to honor their heroes as well as their effort to preserve their precious history.

"It truly has captured the essence of the military firefighting service and the commitment each of the men listed on the bronze plaques has made to this country. It is an honorable site that is filled with fire service tradition representing the courage of firefighters everywhere."

Siarnicki said: "I believe Andrew Carnage provided the best prospectus on the concept of honor when he said:

'No amount of ability is of the slightest worth without honor.'

Siarnicki promised the crowd that he is working on a provision that will allow fallen military firefighters' names to be included on the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Emmitsburg.

"That is something that needs to change, and is an effort that both foundations have been working to address since this strategic partnership was first created..."

He also spoke of tradition, and the importance of preserving it for future generations.

"I am sure that those who have gone before you are proud that you have chosen to continue their traditions -- to uphold their long history of service through your actions. There is so much that we can learn from the past and, just as important learn from the future."

Siarnicki said much like veterans of war, it is difficult to find fitting words to explain the sense of fraternity and family that develops between people who battle the ravages of fire, or risk their health and well-being to rescue the sick and injured.

"Whenever I ask firefighters and emergency medical personnel to explain what it is that fosters this sense of camaraderie, like veterans who have served in the trenches, the usual response is, 'I can't explain it, but you've been there -- you explanation is necessary. You live with this - you understand too."