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A Legacy of Courage

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As firefighters, we spend a lot of time trying to get better at what we do. Every time we answer a call, we spend time reviewing the events … hoping to learn from the experience. We train a whole lot before we even start the job, and train continuously throughout our careers.

Yet, with all of this training, there is one aspect of being a firefighter that never gets any easier: losing one of our own. 

When a firefighter falls in the line of duty, we’ve lost more than just a co-worker. We’ve lost someone with whom we have stood in good times and bad. A part of our family. Even a part of ourselves. In moments like these, we come together as a firefighter family, in grief but also in remembrance. 

In California, we have a place to honor the memories of those we have lost and those who fight on in service every day: the California Firefighters Memorial.

Unveiled 15 years ago, the Memorial is our state’s tribute to the men and women who have paid the ultimate price. Located on the grounds of the State Capitol, the polished limestone walls of the Memorial carry the names of more than 1,300 fallen heroes. Framing this solemn remembrance are larger-than-life images of heroism and heartache.

A timeless tribute to their eternal sacrifice.

The dream of a California Firefighters Memorial was born in 1992, with legislation authorizing the construction of the Memorial in the heart of Capitol Park. Another decade of effort brought the dream to reality in 2002, and every year since, we have gathered for the solemn task of adding more names to its roll of honor.

We come together not only to gain strength from each other, but in hopes we can provide at least a measure of comfort to those whose sacrifice continues: the families and loved ones of our fallen brothers and sisters. 

I’ve spoken to enough family members to know that, for them, the California Firefighters Memorial has an especially personal meaning. There, etched for eternity, is the name of their loved one – timeless evidence of their sacrifice. When I visit the Memorial, I often run into family members taking a moment to touch the name of their loved one. A way to connect, however briefly, with their memory.

This fall, another 31 names will be added to the Memorial at our ceremony on September 30, 2017. The evening before, we will be marking the Memorial’s 15th anniversary with a special vigil and tribute ceremony. I would encourage every firefighter in California to come to Sacramento, if they are able, to participate in person. If you can’t come in person, I’d ask you to join with your brothers and sisters around the state and stand down briefly that Saturday to watch the Memorial Ceremony online.

I have had the honor of participating in every California Firefighters Memorial Ceremony. I’ve comforted those for whom the loss is fresh, and I’ve shared bittersweet memories with our brother and sister firefighters.

Saying goodbye never gets any easier. But through the California Firefighters Memorial, we can take solace in the knowledge that their courage and dedication are a permanent part of California history, and that we will never forget them.


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Stand Down to Remember


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California Firefighters Memorial Timeline


Tributes


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15th Annual Memorial Ceremony