I.A.F.F. Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial Report

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September 21, 2013 marked the 27th annual I.A.F.F. Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial in Colorado Springs, Colorado and 157 names were added to the wall. Among them were 31 Canadians and 46 from New York alone. Many of these were cancer-related and thus increases our desire to try to make the job as safe as we can.

With each name read out a member of the Honour Guard stepped forward holding an IAFF flag, a bell is struck and the flag was presented to a family member. Included in the names read out were two members of the United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg, retired Battalion Chief George McLean and retired District Chief Dave McCorriston. Dave’s son, Brian, presented an IAFF flag to his mom Pat, and I had the honour of presenting a flag to George’s partner Gertie; a very difficult and humbling duty.

The observance began after the arrival of more than 400 motorcycles ended a ten-mile parade to the memorial grounds. I will add that five of those in the 400 strong were members of L867 who rode to Colorado Springs to take in the ceremony. The service included speeches from dignitaries, a choir, and a 330 member pipe and drum section of which 180 were pipers. Talk about a powerful and moving experience (even if you don’t like the pipes).

The IAFF does an excellent job of honouring our fallen in a very respectful and dignified way and we were very humbled to be a part of it.

In spite of massive flooding less than two hours away and devastating forest fires in the past two years, the fire fighters of Colorado Springs Local 5 are to be commended for their hospitality and dedication in guaranteeing that each family member was looked after. They ensured that the families were catered to and had an opportunity to see the sights of the area if only to relax and enjoy their time, in light of why they were there. This is the ideology of the weekend – the families come first, we are here to honour their loss.

In speaking with the McCorriston and McLean families afterward they were amazed at the magnitude of the ceremony and very appreciative of all that was done. I know that Dave McCorriston and the guys who rode down would be more than happy to share their experience and offer their perspective of the weekend and its meaning.

Also in attendance were two of our lawyers from Meyers Weinberg. They have been instrumental in assisting us with many of our presumptive cancer claims and they were both very moved by the day’s events. Now they have a better understanding of why we do what we do and have seen things come full circle.

Dennis Lloyd and his wife Doreen were in attendance as part of the UFFW family. Both remarked at the enormity of the event and Dennis had a chance to greet members of the IAFF executive. While not on a Harley, Dennis and Doreen did drive to Colorado Springs and I learned that they have driven in each one of the 50 United States. Quite an accomplishment! Way to go you two!

On behalf of Tom Bilous, Neil Shaw, Rob Campbell and myself (editorial privilege here) I would like to thank the members of the United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg, the UFFW Executive and President Forrest for their support and the opportunity to attend and be part of such a moving experience.