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Saturday, June 1, 2013
Today, Virginia’s fire and emergency medical services communities will pause to pay tribute to firefighters who have died in the line of duty during the previous year. In doing so, Virginians will continue a 16-year tradition at the annual Virginia Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service in Richmond.
This year, for the first time ever in Virginia, Gov. Bob McDonnell also has proclaimed the week of June 2 Fire and EMS Memorial Week. The addition of this week to the time of remembrance enables departments and agencies across the commonwealth, along with their communities, to independently honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in order to save lives and preserve property.
Join me in taking this opportunity to pay tribute to all of the men and women who serve the commonwealth, risking their lives daily to protect the lives and property of our citizens. These special public servants run toward danger when others run away from it. Sometimes, tragically, they sacrifice their lives.
In 2012, we lost 10 heroes. We will be honoring their sacrifice at this year’s memorial service, along with the families, departments and friends who continue to think of them and miss them each day.
We will pay tribute to the lives and careers of paramedic Joshua Weissman, Alexandria Fire Department; firefighter Zachary Whitacre, Gore Volunteer Fire Department; firefighter Jonathan Myers, Norfolk Fire and Rescue Department; Lt. John Echternach, Boones Mill Volunteer Fire Department; Lt. David Chew, Bloxom Volunteer Fire Department; Chief Pug Wells, Elliston Volunteer Fire Department; technician Mark Baban, Fairfax County Fire Department; retired fire Capt. Clyde Berry, Hopewell Fire Department; retired District Chief Eldridge Canady, James City County Fire Department; and firefighter Joshua Culler, Disputana Volunteer Fire Department.
Together, these men, along with more than 200 men and women who came before them, represent a valiant legacy that is carried on by the more than 125,000 firefighters and more than 36,000 EMS providers in Virginia. They will always be remembered for their dedication and devotion to their communities and the commonwealth.
Last year, there were more than 2 million fire and EMS calls in Virginia. Each time a truck leaves a fire station or an ambulance responds to a call, firefighters and EMS providers put themselves in harm’s way. This heroism and dedication is often accomplished in silence, and when one of these heroes is lost, families, friends and departments grieve.
This year, much like when terrorists attacked our country more than a decade ago, the heroism of first responders and law enforcement was highlighted several times in national headlines based on events so large and horrific that they shocked the world. Every day, the same types of sacrifices are made across the country and in Virginia; the magnitude of the sacrifice is no less significant based on the size of the event or nature of the call.
The loss of any public servant in the line of duty, regardless of the cause, is tragic. We must honor and remember all of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their community and commonwealth. They should never be forgotten by those whom they have served.
Since McDonnell took office in 2010, Virginia has lost 29 heroes, who will continue to be missed by their families, friends, colleagues and communities, but will be remembered for their bravery, dedication, commitment to service and inner strength. I join the governor in asking all Virginians to pause in the coming week and remember those who have served and made the ultimate sacrifice.
I urge you to participate in remembrance ceremonies across the state for these dedicated Virginians whom we have lost in the line of duty.
Please take a few moments to reflect on the sacrifices made by these brave individuals, send your thoughts and prayers to their families, and express your gratitude to the thousands of men and women who carry on their work in your community. The legacy of those we have lost will live on as long as we continue to remember their sacrifice.
To Virginia’s firefighters and EMS providers who continue to risk their lives every day for the people of the commonwealth, I say thank you. To the families, friends and departments of those we have lost, I offer my sincere and heartfelt condolences.
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