EMMITSBURG, Md. — Springfield native Matthew LeTourneau was among the 92 fallen firefighters honored Sunday during the 38th National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service to remember those who died in the line of duty in 2018.

Chief Dennis Compton, past chairman of the National Fallen Firefighter Foundation, noted there are many events throughout the country honoring the fallen firefighters this past weekend, and people are showing respect for the fallen heroes and showing compassion for the loved ones who have lost so much.

“At some of these events, they are undoubtedly using the word hero. Anyone who knows a firefighter understands that few of us in the fire service are comfortable with that word - hero. But whether we like it or not, firefighters are viewed as heroes by the public,” Compton said. “I think that’s because firefighters embody a unique blend of courage and compassion. When firefighters are called, it’s often because someone else is having their worst day imaginable. Firefighters arrive, ready to take control of the situation, and provide service and comfort to complete strangers, expecting nothing in return.”

He said the loved ones of firefighters supported their commitment, passion and dedication to service, which often meant that firefighters missed special occasions, such as birthdays, holidays, their children’s recitals and sporting events.

“You understood that firefighting wasn’t just a job or an obligation,” Compton said. “It was a passion and a calling.”

He said their loved ones also understood the physical and emotional challenges as well as the dangers the firefighters faced.

“You told them to be safe and you meant it,” Compton said.

Matthew LeTourneau, 42, of Springfield, was known for ending every conversation by saying, “stay safe.”

Kevin McAleenan, Acting Secretary, Department of Homeland Security, said that firefighters are critical to our homeland security, “standing between us and danger and taking action when many others are frozen in fear.”

“There is no more honorable vocation in life than to serve to protect your neighbor, to step forward into harm’s way so that others may live,” McAleenan said. “But that selfless service often comes at a great price and we mourn those fallen firefighters, our heroes, who have given all to protect their fellow Americans.”

He said the fallen heroes honored Sunday shared the same calling to serve, whether they battled a building fire or wildland fire. Among the fallen, 10 wildland firefighters were honored this year. Additionally, 26 individuals were honored who died of illnesses related to the Sept. 11, 2001 terroristic attacks.

“Every day they reported for duty, unaware of how they might be called to protect their communities,” McAleenan said.

In total, 92 firefighters who died in the line of duty in 2018 from 38 states and 27 fallen heroes who died in the line of duty in previous years were honored and their names were added to the Memorial Service Wall at the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Maryland, where the service was held.

McAleenan said the 119 fallen firefighters were the epitome of selfless service and what it means to be a public servant because they had been “placing the well-being of their fellow citizen above their own.” He added that the memorial is about honoring the legacies of the fallen heroes and honoring the families who have endured immeasurable pain.

Each family of a fallen hero received a folded American flag, a red rose and a personalized badge. Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel presented the flag to Janice LeTourneau, Matthew’s mom. Thiel also presented flags to two other families of fallen heroes of the Philadelphia Fire Department.

A Philadelphia firefighter since 2007, LeTourneau was promoted to lieutenant in 2015 and promoted to captain posthumously. He served with Engine 45/Platoon A. LeTourneau also served as a suppression instructor in Pennsylvania and as a longtime volunteer firefighter with the Springfield Fire Company.

LeTourneau died on Jan. 6, 2018, after becoming trapped in a structural collapse while battling a rowhome fire in North Philadelphia. Two other firefighters were injured during the collapse, the homeowner perished in the fire and a neighbor suffered an injury during the blaze.

Chief Keith Bryant, U.S. Fire Administrator, said firefighters bravely face dangers, all types and sizes, to protect others. He said the fire service reflects the bonds of a family, serving as brothers and sisters.

“The time we spend together in this noble work, creates an incredibly strong and life-long bond. When we lose a brother or sister, the loss and hurt is profound,” Bryant said. “We also recognize that the families and the loved ones of the fallen are just as much a part of the greater fire service family, as the members. We realize yours is the greater sacrifice and the deeper loss.”

Peter Gaynor, Acting Administrator, FEMA, shared best wishes for firefighters to safely return to their firehouses after each call and to return home to their families, and to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice during their dedicated service.

“Since the founding our nation, firefighters have demonstrated unwavering dedication, courage and commitment to their fellow community members every day,” Gaynor said. “Whether career or volunteer, we depend on these individuals to respond to complex emergencies and threats in our community.”

President Donald Trump, in a letter, said firefighters courageously face uncertainties and the memorial service honors the fallen firefighters who placed service above self.

“Their heroic legacy will forever be preserved in the hearts of the communities they helped to safe guard,” Trump wrote.

Visit Daily Local News staff writer Ginger Rae Dunbar’s blog about journalism and volunteering as a firefighter at FirefighterGinger.blogspot.com.

comments powered by Disqus