Obama to Attend Texas Memorial Service

Editor's Note: Firehouse Associate Editor Susan Nicol was sent to Texas following the tragic blast on Wednesday night. Stay with Firehouse.com for exclusive stories and more. Find full coverage of the West, Texas Tragedy here.

WEST, TEXAS – On Thursday, President Obama will address the loved ones and colleagues of the responders killed in the fertilizer plant explosion.

A joint memorial service for the firefighters and EMS personnel is set for 2 p.m. Thursday at Baylor University.

Even before word came that Obama was attending, firefighters with the Texas LODD Task Force have been busy tending to the needs of the family members of the fallen heroes. A liaison has been assigned to each.

Killed in the blast that registered 2.1 on the Richter scale were West firefighters Morris Bridges, 41; Cody Dragoo, 50; Joseph Pustejousky; Douglas Snokhous , 50; and Robert Snokhous, 48.

Others killed were Dallas Fire-Rescue Kenny Harris, Abbott FD/West EMS -- Cyrus Reed and Jerry Chapman; Merknel FD/West EMS Perry Calvin and Bruceville Eddy FD/EMS Kevin Sanders.

Two men who helped at the scene were made honorary firefighters by West. They are Jimmy Matus, 52, a well-loved member of the community, helped build the department's engines as the owner of Westex Welding, and William Uptmor Jr., who led horses to safety in a field, and joined the firefighters in their effort.

The liaisons have been with the families helping to make arrangements and compose eulogies as well as explaining the events that will take place at the memorial service such as presentations of flags, a procession of apparatus and the sea of blue.

The families have been providing photographs and selecting music.

Planning a firefighter memorial service is a daunting task in itself. But, this requires more detail due to the number of responders being honored.

That’s why some who helped plan the memorial for the nine Charleston firefighters have travelled to Texas.

“We’re here to help and offer suggestions based on how we did things,” said Zorrina Harmon, benefits director for the South Carolina State Firemen’s Association adding that it’s an honor to lend a hand during this difficult time.

“We’ve heard from a lot of firefighters planning to attend,” said Jim Byers, with the Texas LODD Task Force. “We’ve been getting a lot of calls from everywhere.”

Byers as well as other officials are working with the Secret Service about various security measures that will be in place Thursday.

The honor guards and flag presenters will have a rehearsal to make sure everyone is on the same page.

Byers said regardless of the heightened security, the service to honor the fallen heroes will be a memorable one. 

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