The National Fallen Firefighter Memorial Service

Charles L. Werner compiles an overview of the annual memorial service that honors firefighters who have died in the line of duty.


The annual National Fallen Firefighter Memorial Service sadly tells the story of those fallen heroes of the previous year. This event, which is so important to fire service family members, serves to honor our fallen comrades and to also give support to the loved ones left behind. This year's service...


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The annual National Fallen Firefighter Memorial Service sadly tells the story of those fallen heroes of the previous year. This event, which is so important to fire service family members, serves to honor our fallen comrades and to also give support to the loved ones left behind. This year's service takes place on Oct. 8, honoring 101 firefighters who died in the line of duty during 1999.

The accompanying excerpt is from the Sunday Bulletin of the October 1999 Chicago Fire Monthly Mass. This excerpt reveals the emotional feelings expressed by the Reverend Thomas Mulcrone, a Chicago Fire Department chaplain, on the most recent National Fallen Firefighter Memorial Service.

Let's Never Forget

After years of planning and participating in memorial services of all kinds, I am seldom overwhelmed. The death of one of our own is the exception. But I must share with you the experience I had when I attended the memorial services at the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial.

Located on the grounds of the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, MD, the memorial is a moving and powerful tribute to the men and women of the fire service who have died in the line of duty.

Every year, during the first weekend of October, Besides these family members, hundreds of firefighters and paramedics from across the nation gather with these families to pay tribute to their fallen comrades. Moreover, family members - "survivors" - from previous years return to help support these families.

I cannot begin to tell you how moving and inspiring the weekend was, most especially the candlelight ceremony on Saturday night and flag ceremony on Sunday morning. It was evident by looking into the faces of the surviving family members what this weekend of tribute meant to them.

To be honest, though, what struck me the most was the "sea of blue" - the firefighters and paramedics, at least 600 of them, from every corner of this nation who came on their own time and at their own expense to pay tribute to the 95 men and women who were honored. They came from California, Washington, Maine, Florida and every point in between. They represented departments as large as New York and as small as the Marks, MS, Volunteer Fire Department. One small volunteer department had four members present. They had obviously thrown together whatever they could get to resemble a uniform. And yet, they stood shoulder to shoulder with the "big-city guys" and marched as tall and as proudly.

It was edifying to be part of such an experience. How I wish so many more could experience this weekend. I don't think I have ever felt more a part of the fire service as I did during those two days. It's easy to complain and moan (and I do my fair share) about how we are not a family anymore and that the fire department is going to the dogs. We lament the fact that some just don't care and have given up or that others have taken advantage of a good thing and used it to their benefit. We criticize those who are not like us and chastise those who do not fit in. And then something tragic and unforeseen happens and we put all that behind us because we realize what is really important.

The weekend reminded me of what is truly important - the countless men and women who gave their lives in the performance of their duties. It reminded me of the great tradition of the fire service, over 1 million strong who continue to stand together proudly.

Let's never forget those who have gone before us, and let us honor their memory by carrying on the proud tradition they emulated in life and solemnized in death.

The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation

Congress created the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation to lead efforts to remember America's fallen fire heroes and to help their survivors through difficult times. The Memorial Service is an important part of how the foundation carries out this legislative mandate, but there are many more programs.

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