Chaplain (Capt.) Thomas Fodi, 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, offers a prayer for a remembrance ceremony held at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia Oct. 16, 2011, in conjunction with Bells Across America.
Photo by Army 1st Lt. Rusty Ridley
SOUTHWEST ASIA (11/8/2011) - Firefighters have a close bond - one
that grows closer by remembering what is truly important.
gathering of members from the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, along
with others across the U.S., started Oct. 16, 2011, by honoring
fallen firefighters in conjunction with Bells Across America.
This marks the 30th Annual National Fallen Firefighters Memorial
weekend in Emmitsburg, Md. For the first time the bells of the
chapel at the national memorial will chime in honor of firefighter
fallen heroes to accompany the ceremony.
The significance was
not lost on participants who are currently serving at an undisclosed
location in Southwest Asia.
"It brings to light the little
things, when you're standing and listening to the speakers, you
think it's so much bigger than just me, here, helping run the
department," said Tech. Sgt. Jason Procknal, a native of Buffalo,
N.Y., who is deployed from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.
"It's worldwide. There are so many people way before me who made
This year 89 new names will be added at the
memorial. Seventy two are from 2010 line of duty deaths and 17 more
are from previous years that had not yet been added. Including 2010
there are a total of more than 3,400 fallen firefighters that have
been honored at this memorial.
A year ago, Department of
Defense firefighters were officially recognized and added at the
"Working overseas during a deployment as a firefighter is
always a tough thing especially being around for some of the
losses that we've experienced while deployed," said Tech.
Sgt. Geoffry Wilson, also deployed from Joint Base
McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J., and is a native of Las Vegas,
Nev. "It's actually really significant seeing us being added
at this point to the actual ceremonies and the DoD being
accepted last year."
"It has a great impact on me
and I'm very appreciative of the fact that we get included
since we also do the job the rest of the nation does on a
regular basis," Wilson said. "I'm just excited to be part of
it and glad to see that it's getting recognized across the
board. It's a strong tribute."
Senior Master Sgt.
Joseph Walsh, 332nd Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron
fire chief, attended last year's events in Maryland and
reflected on the experience.
"The ceremony was
moving," said Walsh, who is deployed from Barksdale Air
Force Base, La. "Truly. There wasn't a dry eye left in the
thousands in attendance and it didn't matter your age, how
big or small, military or civilian - a tear was shed."
A discharged fire extinguisher was used as an improvised
bell and was struck by a spanner wrench nine times.
The sound of a bell holds special significance for
firefighters. Historically, the toll of a bell summoned
members to the station, signaled the beginning of a shift,
notified departments of a call for help and indicated a call
was completed and the unit had returned to the station.
Departments sounded a series of bells when a firefighter
died in the line of duty to alert all members that a comrade
had made the ultimate sacrifice. This time-honored tradition
continues today during the funerals or memorial services for
"We utilize these traditions as
symbols which reflect honor and respect on those who had
given so much and served so well," said Walsh, a native of
the Bronx borough of New York City. "There are few jobs that
ask to lay down our lives for others. You have chosen two of
them: the first for your country in defense of our freedoms
and helping others who can't, and the second is when you
return home to your stations to protect your neighbors."
By Army 1st Lt. Rusty Ridley
332nd Air Expeditionary Wing
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