Our Fallen Heroes

The National Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Emmitsburg, MD, is undergoing expansion. In this article, Charles Werner pays tribute to firefighters who made the ultimate sacrifice and explains how their memories may be preserved.


Oct. 4, 1998, marked the 17th annual Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service. The ceremony honored 89 career and volunteer firefighters from 32 states and the District of Columbia who died in the line of duty. The annual service is held on the grounds of the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, MD...


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"Firefighting is a dangerous job. Sadly, new names will be added to plaques each year and new families will continue to come, bearing their broken hearts and treasured memories. Little boys whose daddies will not be there to teach them to drive, daughters whose fathers will not walk beside them on their wedding day, wives turned to widows too soon, the broken hearted mothers and fathers all wishing for what can never be. And the firefighters who loved and worked with them will continue to come too, standing so tall in their sea of blue uniforms, broken by grief, tears unshamingly will continue to come, searching for answers, wanting to share our loss and needing to hear the words, 'On behalf of a grateful nation.'

"Perhaps you have a name you would like to be inscribed on a brick on the Walkway of Heroes. Perhaps your department would like to honor the sacrifices of those who came before us. Supporting this project is a worthy way to remember all our heroes. I hope your family never has to make that difficult journey to Emmitsburg in early October. I hope your mother never has to reach out to receive that neatly folded flag. I hope your wife never has to hear your name and the words, 'On behalf of a grateful nation.' Make safety a virtue. Each of you is precious to someone and it is a terribly high price your family pays forever. While we celebrate the courage of firefighters, let's always be vigilant to elevate fire safety to high prominence for the sake of the people who love you. On behalf of a grateful nation, let's make your safety our highest priority."

Presidential Tribute

To Vina Drennan and others who lost loved ones, President Clinton sent these thoughts:

"Greetings to all those gathered for the Annual National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service. We place profound responsibilities on our nation's firefighters, asking them to place the safety and well being of their neighbors above their own. We trust them to keep our families, homes, schools and neighborhoods safe from fire. Because of their efforts, our nation is a better place to live. Eighty-nine men and women you are honoring at this ceremony carried out the responsibilities with courage, skill and steadfast regard for the well-being of others. Putting their lives on the line, they made an enormous contribution to the communities they serve; earning the enduring gratitude and respect of their fellow citizens."

Following the President's remarks, the Presidential Wreath was placed at the memorial as a national tribute to those fire heroes that gave their lives for our country.

To learn more about the National Firefighters Memorial and how you can help, visit the Website at www.firehero.org, telephone 301-447-1365 or you visit Firehouse On-Line at www.Firehouse.com. On the Website you can see highlights of the service and hear audio clips of the moving comments made by Hal Bruno at last year's service as well as additional artwork of the new site.

I wish to thank the devoted staff members of the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Foundation for their tireless efforts to honor the memory of our fallen firefighters and to support the loved ones who have been left behind.


Charles Werner, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a 23-year veteran of the fire service. He is currently a battalion chief with the Charlottesville, VA, Fire Department's Division of Training, Technology and Community Affairs.