Monday, November 26, 2012

They Choose To Serve in Times of Need

By day they are a fire prevention specialist in Nevada, a state assistant fire management officer in Utah, a fire equipment specialist in Idaho, a fire training specialist in Colorado and other BLM fire program professionals. But when one of their colleagues, known or unknown to them, falls victim to a line of duty death this group of BLM personnel come together to form what former Director Bob Abbey called "the very best of who we are" as people and as an agency.

The 12-members of the BLM National Fire and Aviation Honor Guard come from a variety of backgrounds, jobs and locations, but at least twice a year they train together, travel together and hone the precise ceremonial movements of their trade. Woven in and throughout those movements is a high sense of honor, dignity, and service over self in respect for a fallen colleague, bringing immeasurable comfort to the family of the fallen. . .

BLM Fire and Aviation Honor Guard members, left to right: Vanessa Marquez, Andy Rothleutner, Tommy Hayes, Juan Zepeda, Lamar Liddell, Gary Helming, Chris Delaney, Shannon Meyers, Cliff Hutton, past member Jenny Camp, Todd Richardson. Not shown, current members Lisa Kemper and Dennis Strange.
Whether they are serving as pall bearers, guarding a casket, acting as a family liaison, folding and presenting a flag, or conducting other ceremonial rites, they present a highly professional, honorable, respected and respectable face to the BLM and the Fire and Aviation Program. 
BLM Fire and Aviation Honor Guard members serve as pall bearers for Caleb Hamm, a BLM hotshot crew member who lost his life on a fire in Texas. Members shown, left to right, include Dennis Strange, Todd Richardson (partially shown at the back of the casket) Vanessa Marquez, past member Jenny Camp (partially shown), Shannon Meyers, Andy Rothleutner and Cliff Hutton.
"The Honor Guard, to me, is my opportunity to give back to those firefighters and their families that have given everything and paid the ultimate sacrifice protecting America's natural resources and the American people," says Chris Delaney, who has served as the honor guard coordinator for the group since 2005. "The profession of firefighting is more than a job; it is a lifestyle and brotherhood that bonds people unlike any other profession."
Cliff Hutton, left, and Gary Helming at the Candlelight Vigil, one of the events held during the annual National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend in Emmitsburg, Maryland.
Each October, the group travels to Emmitsburg, Maryland and the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend held at the U.S. Fire Administration's National Training Academy campus; a FEMA/DHS facility. The weekend consists of activities and ceremonies for family members of fallen firefighters as well as a Saturday night candlelight vigil and Sunday morning memorial service. BLM Honor Guard members fill a number of roles, ranging from family escorts to guarding the memorial monument, often through the night; as well as perform whatever other tasks or duties asked of them.

Juan Zepeda, left, makes final checks and adjustments to Vanessa Marquez's uniform prior to a ceremony at the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend in Emmitsburg, Maryland. 
BLM Fire and Aviation Honor Guard member Tommy Hayes escorts Joy Stearns at a National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Joy's husband, Brett, was killed by a falling tree on a fuels project in Colorado.
During the week leading up to the memorial weekend, Honor Guard members participate in training or other educational exercises and meet with BLM leaders when possible in Washington, D.C. Each year they also take a short time from those endeavors to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns, representing the BLM Fire and Aviation program by honoring of all who have fallen in the line of duty. The group comes together again each spring for training, group development and to ensure they are ready to respond on a moment's notice when needed.
Members of the BLM Fire and Aviation Honor Guard join military guards in a wreath-laying ceremony representing the BLM Fire and Aviation program by honoring of all who have fallen in the line of duty at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery.
Each member brings their own reasons for choosing to serve in such a capacity, and as a whole they form a unique and special group whose service to the BLM and the families of fallen firefighters is exceptional, distinctive and beyond the every-day call of duty.

Reprint from The BLM Daily, Monday, November 19, 2012.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this on your blog Pam. Your awe inspiring passion for leadership development is to be commended! Efforts like yours make the wildland fire community a better place and I'm proud to call you a friend. TH