Rhett and I (along with hundreds of Brothers and Sisters from all across the Country) have just returned home from the 31st Annual NFFF Memorial Weekend.
This year, 85 names were added to the Memorial (80 from 2011 and 5 from previous years).
The Mission / Purpose of the NFFF and the Memorial Weekend is to not only Honor our fallen, but to also provide SUPPORT for the survivors (the families). It’s the kind of support that I don’t believe can be found in any other place.
You’ve often heard Rhett and I speak (or write) about “Brotherhood”. It comes in many different forms and can be found in the least expected places. With that said, I can honestly tell you that I’ve never seen “True Brotherhood” at work as I have on the grounds of the Memorial. It’s Brotherhood in it’s rarest form … UNSELFISH, TRUE and PURE.
Past survivors return year after year to assist new survivors with the challenges and hurdles they are facing. Who knows these challenges better than a past survivor? Knowing they are not alone, new and lasting friendships are made through mutual understanding and the healing process.
Brother and Sister Firefighters from all across the Country volunteer their time during the Weekend to serve as “Escorts” for the families. Every family of a fallen firefighter (being honored that year) is assigned a fire-service Escort to assist them while they are on-campus during Memorial Weekend. While on campus and attending Memorial Weekend, their every need is taken care of (learn how to become an Escort by CLICKING HERE ).
There is a “family day” full of activities for both the adult and child survivors. There are even grief counselors on hand for private sessions with the families. A candle light service is held on Saturday evening / night as well as many, many more activities / events leading up to the Memorial Service on Sunday.
The entire weekend is sponsored by the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. With help from private donations, the Foundation is able to provide lodging and meals for the immediate survivors and assists with their travel expenses.
Learn more about the NFFF Memorial Weekend HERE
Rhett and I were honored to once again be part of the Memorial Weekend. This year, Rhett led the Social Media Team while I assisted Dave Statter with Production. As awe inspiring as the Weekend itself is, it is twice as amazing to be in a position to see and realize everything it takes to make it happen.
HUNDREDS of volunteers are needed and, Brothers and Sisters from all across the Country come together to fulfill the various tasks. In essence, it’s like running a small city or a very large incident. Housing (on site as well as at various hotels), food, logistics, transportation, operations, Honor Guard, Fire / Rescue, communications, escorts, production etc. it could easily become overwhelming.
Managing all these areas and being able to focus them toward a common goal / direction could obviously be a nightmare….but NOT at Memorial Weekend. Obviously, the National Incident Management System (NIMS) is utilized and that in itself is amazing to see in operation on this scale. Chief John McGrath of the Raleigh, NC Fire Department served flawlessly as our Incident Commander.
Production of the Memorial Weekend is never without obstacles and this year’s was major. For only the 2nd time in 31 years, Sunday’s Memorial Service had to be moved to an indoor location, off campus; due to the weather.
The decision was made and following Saturday night’s Candlelight Service, EVERYTHING was moved and setup inside Knott Arena at Mount St. Mary’s University (just a few miles away). The logistics alone could be overwhelming not to mention production of the Service. Communications, video, audio, live streaming etc… EVERYTHING had to be relocated. The Honor Guard, speakers, performers and readers were all prepared to execute their duties on the grounds of the Memorial….. every step rehearsed. Now, in less than 12 hours; the venue would change.
The move and Sunday’s Service went off flawlessly and that speaks VOLUMES about all members involved. I personally wondered if not being “on site” at the Memorial would take away from the Service … it didn’t (see pictures HERE)
The Memorial Service and the entire weekend is, after all; about the Fallen and their Survivors. In the very least, the families were warm and dry. With every seat taken and Honor Guard lining the walls, the feeling I found inside Knott Arena was no less spiritual than what I’ve experienced outside at the Memorial. As soon as the Pipe and Drums began playing, we all knew we were in the right place.
If you’ve never attended Memorial Weekend, YOU SHOULD. I guarantee that after the first visit, you’ll return the following year. I’ll also bet that you’ll want to become more involved.
Please take the time to watch the videos and use the links in this post(above and below) to see and learn more about the 31st Annual and future NFFF Memorial Weekends. Also, start making plans NOW to attend the 32nd Memorial Weekend to be held on October 5-6, 2013.
Follow The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation of Face Book HERE .
Find more photos of the 2012 Memorial Weekend HERE
More info and photos on the NFFF Web Site HERE
Stay SAFE and in House!