The 2013 LAFD Memorial Ceremony will be held on Saturday, October 12th at 1000 hours. Please make plans to attend this event in order to honor our firefighters who perished in the line of duty and to acknowledge the sacrifice of those they left behind.
It has been my privilege to have taken part in past memorial ceremonies. Personally, I find the ceremony very sentimental and it reminds me of what I have to be grateful for in my life. From the perspective of a grateful American citizen who lived through 9/11/2001, I recognize the need for and appreciate the service of the people called firefighters and paramedics. I’m grateful to be a retired LA City firefighter, and as such, having worked with and for some of the best firefighters and paramedics around. I’m grateful to have been born and raised in the City strip along Vermont Avenue. In fact as a youth I once worked alongside the local firefighters from FS 79 helping extinguish a small fire in my own backyard. Unfortunately I had caused the fire while playing with matches and gasoline – so it wasn’t something that I ever included on my resume.
And, of course, I’m grateful to be a member of the LAFD Chaplain Corps. I’ve been practicing the Christian faith for 25 years. I consider that my main identity and the source of the compassion I have for people in need. Eight years ago, in a matter of weeks, the LAFD lost four members: Captain Joe Dupee in a structure fire, A/O Mike McComb, FF/PM Eric Reiner and FF/PM Michael Butler in the crash of Fire 3. Shortly after that I joined the ranks of LAFD’s volunteer chaplains.
Have you ever stopped to think of what the word “memorial” means? In the literal sense the word “memorial” can be defined as: a monument or holiday designed or established to serve as a remembrance of a person or an event. Our annual ceremony is a solemn remembrance of those brothers, and a sister, who along with their loved ones paid the ultimate price of duty. Our presence at the ceremony says that the lives we lost were special and that the causes they died for were and always will be meaningful.
But there is another meaning, just as significant, for today’s memorial. While the memorial is designed to honor the dead, ultimately it is for the living. This memorial or any commemoration like it has the potential to teach those of us that remain the virtue and gift of gratitude. As we mourn the loss of our loved ones and co-workers let us also, at the same time, remember the risk and high cost of public safety and thank God for those who serve with honor.
As we consider the memory of our fallen comrades, let us also ponder their legacy. A legacy is defined as something handed down from an ancestor, or predecessor from the past. I want share with you four characteristics that comprise what I will refer to as “the firefighter’s legacy.” I have been impressed in my personal faith as a Christian as I have watched the following characteristics displayed time and again by department members.
In the exercise of their duties FF’s and Paramedics consistently:
1) Act selflessly: The bible says (in Phil. 2:3-4) “Let nothing be done from selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”
2) Live as servants: (Matt. 20:26 & 28) “. . . whoever desires to be first among you let him be your servant.” “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many.”
3) Respond sacrificially: (John 15:13) After the command that we are to love one another verse 13 states: “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”
4) Live in Humility: (1Peter 5:6-7) “We are to be clothed with humility, for God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
When we remember our fallen comrades, let us remember to be thankful for what they have done and how they have lived. Let’s face tomorrow having picked up the legacy passed on to those left behind. In doing so, as we intentionally act upon things they have taught us, life will be better and the contribution of the fallen will continue to live on.
May the good Lord help us all to be grateful, act selflessly, live as servants, respond sacrificially and practice humility. Psalm 46, Verse One says this: “God is our refuge and strength.”
Sometimes even the 1st responder needs help, don’t forget that you can look to God. And if there’s anything that we can do – just call us, and let us come along side you. After all that’s what families do for one another.
By George Negrete, LAFD Chaplain