By Adam K. Thiel
Once again this year I attended the National Fallen Firefighter Memorial Service in Emmitsburg, Md.
Despite the inclement weather moving the ceremony indoors to Mount St. Mary's College, it was, as usual, a tremendously poignant event made possible by the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation and legions of volunteers from all around the United States.
Every year I read the stories about our fallen brothers and sisters and it's amazing how different their backgrounds and experiences are, yet they — and their surviving families and departments — are all bound together by their courage, commitment and ultimately their sacrifice.
Beyond the important purpose of honoring our fallen comrades and helping their survivors begin the healing process, this annual memorial service offers all of us the opportunity to reflect on our own service. Hopefully, we re-commit to preventing future line-of-duty deaths and injuries — not just through our own individual behaviors, but through looking out for our companies, units, teams and departments.
We are making progress; the number of firefighters honored each year has declined. But when you see their families, their partners, their children and their brother and sister firefighters walk up to accept the folded flags — it's a reminder that every tragic loss has far-reaching implications beyond those directly involved.