The Family’s Heart felt “Thanks”

10408885_916510578382600_1056049916137144160_nI am writing on behalf, and at the request; of the parents of Michael Todd Harris.

Todd passed away on Monday morning, March 2, 2015 after a 2 1/2 year, hard fought battle with occupational throat cancer.

Todd was a 2nd generation Firefighter who was forced to retire in December 2013 after serving 27 years with the Roanoke Fire / EMS Department. He was affectionately referred to by his Brother and Sister Firefighters as “Boots”.

Due to the type of cancer he battled, his passing is considered a Line Of Duty Death (LODD) in Virginia.

He was buried with full Fire Department Honors at Blue Ridge Memorial Gardens on Thursday, March 5, 2015.

You can find / read his obituary by clicking HERE .

Despite the cold rain and snow, family visitation and Todd’s funeral was widely attended. Todd was very well known, respected and loved by all who knew him. Friends, family and fellow firefighters traveled from not just all across the State, but many from out of State as well. Just how many wasn’t really clear until yesterday.

With his passing still heavy on her heart and mind, Todd’s mother sat down yesterday to attempt to write “Thank You” cards. She was simply overwhelmed by the number of Firefighters and the distances they had traveled. It’s a true testament to the “Brotherhood” we firefighters share and it never ceases to amaze me.

She asked for my assistance and hopes that the family can share their gratitude here on the pages of Please understand and forgive us if we inadvertently omit anyone in this attempt.

Danville patchTo everyone who attended the “visitation” … THANK YOU! Both sessions were packed with members sharing their grief, sorrow and offering condolences. The building was at capacity with the waiting line often reaching through the front doors.

Active, retired, career or volunteer, please know that your presence was comforting.

Visitors came from as far away as Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia and Pennsylvania. In Virginia, Lexington, Hillsville, Smith Mt Lake, Blacksburg, Christiansburg,  Union Hall, Danville, Bedford, Botetourt, Salem, Roanoke County, Roanoke City and more were all represented.

Special THANKS to the Honor Guard, which consisted of members from Roanoke City, Roanoke County and the City of Salem who stood “Post” by Todd’s casket throughout. Todd’s mother (Laura Ann) commented several times as to the professionalism displayed as well as to the dedication, discipline and strength it must have taken each member to bestow such an Honor upon Todd and his family.

E13Thursday’s wet, cold and snowy weather did not hamper the display of Honor and Respect during Todd’s funeral.

Special THANKS to  Salem Fire Chief, John Prilliman (who also approved overtime for his members) and Roanoke County Fire & Rescue Chief, Rick Burch for providing apparatus and staffing to cover Roanoke City stations / personnel during the funeral. Special THANKS as well to each and every member who signed up to cover those assignments (I wish I could list you all but unfortunately, I do not have the roster) . Thanks also to Roanoke City Fire / EMS Chief David Hoback for allowing C-shift (Todd’s shift / Battalion) to attend the services and for this coverage to occur.

Thanks to Roanoke City Police Officer (FTO) Combs for providing an escort from the Funeral Home to the Cemetery.

THANKS to Roanoke County Station #5 (Captain Randy Spence and crew) as well as to all the other units / members (City, County and Salem) who blocked every intersection along our route, stood at attention and saluted as we passed. It was a very moving and emotional tribute.

flagThe family was brought to tears as we turned into the Cemetery beneath the extended ladders and American Flag. It was simply BEAUTIFUL.

Then they noticed all the members, in crisp, sharp, Class-A uniforms, standing at attention, saluting,  aligning  each side of the roadway. I explained to them, as we drove through; that this is what we call a “sea of blue”. Again they were brought to tears when they realized that the line had systematically collapsed behind us and that each member was then marching in unison behind the procession as we continued up to the Mausoleum.  THANK YOU to each and every member who helped make up that “sea of blue” (Special THANKS to Captain Tom Gherman who was in Command of the exterior activities).

Due to the weather, what was scheduled to be a grave-side service was moved into the Mausoleum. It was a fitting and BEAUTIFUL setting. There was a lot of seating provided but, due to the attendance; many were forced to stand. THANK YOU for making that sacrifice and doing so.

Todd’s cancer was terminal and his passing not unexpected. Many of the events / circumstances surrounding his funeral were planned and at his request. Each of the Pallbearers should know that Todd personally requested them. A VERY SPECIAL THANKS to Captain Clayton Martin, Captain Tim Cady, Lt. George Perdue, Lt. Terry Hauck, Lt. Mark Brown, Retired and Honorary Members Captain Gary Clark and Lt. Barry Simmons for providing this last act of Honor and Respect for Todd.

Thanks to Pastor Edgar Moser for his spiritual guidance, support and simple friendship. Not only did Pastor Moser deliver the perfect Eulogy he also stood by Todd and his family throughout much of his battle.

To Lt. Mike Elston and the Pipes and Drums …. THANK YOU! What a BEAUTIFUL tribute and display of Tradition, Pride, Honor and Respect …. there wasn’t a dry eye in the building.

saluteTo Captain Chris Trussler (Command), the interior Honor Guard and Flag Folding Detail …. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU ! What an outstanding job and tribute. I should add that Captain Trussler worked closely with the family during the final few weeks to assure all their needs and wishes were met and they were! I’ll also add that the Flag Folding Detail actually folded two flags for Todd’s service so one could be presented to his Father (at Todd’s request) as well as to his wife Evelyn.

Thanks to Battalion Chief Teddy Adkins who read the Ringing of the Bells. Teddy served as Todd’s Battalion Chief for many years and I know “Boots” thought highly of him. To the dispatcher who read and sounded Todd’s Last Alarm … THANK YOU! Beautifully spoken. And to Chief Hoback for allowing me the HONOR of presenting Todd’s helmet to his father …I can’t THANK YOU enough.

THANKS to Sarah Fuhrman of First Due Gear for her contribution / gesture in providing a new pair of leather fire boots for flower arrangements.

To IAFF Local-1132 Officers Tim Parry and Kevin Weeks, the family can not say enough about the support you have given…. not just during the services but throughout the last 2 1/2 years.

To all Jurisdictions, Officers and Members who participated / attended THANK YOU. To everyone who was unable to attend but sent / left messages, cards, thoughts, prayers, flowers etc … THANK YOU.

The compassion, love and support we have received can not be described or ever repaid. We are forever grateful and humbled by your show of TRADITION, PRIDE, HONOR and RESPECT…. like Todd, it will not be forgotten.

On behalf of the family of Firefighter Michael Todd Harris (“Boots”) THANK YOU ALL!

Captain Wines