Helping Families of the Fallen

August 4, 2013

Sometimes helping out means just being there. That’s why Jeanne Urquiza was grateful to have trustees from the Los Angeles Firemen’s Relief Association (which manages the Widows, Orphans & Disabled Firemen’s Fund) accompany her and four other LAFD families as they made the somber pilgrimage to the Fallen Fire Fighters Memorial in Colorado.

At the annual ceremony, the International Association of Fire Fighters adds the names of brave heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice to the Wall of Honor, which rests in the shadow of Pike’s Peak. This time the name of Jeanne’s husband, Ralph Urquiza, and three other LAFD members were added to the memorial: Keith Kroll; Eric Shepherd; and Glenn Smith.

To help shoulder some of the emotional burden, three active duty firefighters accompanied family members-Relief Vice President and Fire Captain Juan Albarran and trustees Bob Steinbacher and Kurt Stabel.

Jeanne didn’t know much about the Relief or the Widows, Orphans & Disabled Firemen’s Fund before the death of her husband.  Now, she knows the trustees, staff and volunteers are there for her, no matter what she needs. “It’s a huge family,” she said. “It’s one of those places that have an open door.”

Jeanne said, “Once we were inside the hotel, [the trustees] were checking on us to make sure we had everything we needed.”

But, the families aren’t the only ones impacted by this moving tribute. Firefighter Paramedic Bob Steinbacher worked and was great friends with honoree Glenn Smith.  Bob made the trip to Colorado at the request of Glenn’s son Steve. “It hit a little closer to home,” Bob said. “It was nice to be there for Steve.”

While on the trip, charity leaders arranged group dinners so the families could meet and share a sense of community. And building that community is one of the things Widows & Orphans does that can’t be quantified. “We’re not just about medical claims, we’re not just about financial assistance,” Bob said. “It’s about being there.”

For more information about the memorial and the International Association of Fire Fighters, visit iaff.org.

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