Emmitsburg, Maryland — Nearly everyone knows a firefighter. They’re our family, friends and co-workers. They respond to a stranger’s call for help without hesitation, and serve with pride and compassion. They’re our community heroes. When a firefighter dies in the line of duty, an entire community grieves.
On Sunday, October 8, the lives of 75 firefighters who died in the line of duty in 2016 and 20 firefighters who died in previous years will be honored during the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service in Emmitsburg, Maryland. One of Freeport’s own, Eric T. Kohlbauer, Captain for the Freeport Rural Fire Department will be one of those honored. Captain Kohlbauer died in the line of duty while training with Freeport Rural Fire Department on July 12 2016. Captain Eric T. Kohlbauer served on Freeport Rural Fire Department for 29 years and 11 months. He had just attained the rank of captain the day before his death.
During the service, a bronze plaque bearing the names of the fallen will be officially added to the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial. These firefighters will also be remembered in a special Candlelight Service on Saturday, October 7 at 6:30 p.m. (ET). The service begins at 10:00 a.m. (ET) at the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Maryland and is open to the public.
More than 5,000 people, including families, friends, members of Congress, Administration officials and firefighters are expected to attend on Sunday. Firefighter Honor Guards and Pipe & Drum units from across the U.S. will participate in this national remembrance.
Among those attending will be Captain Kohlbauer’s wife Cathy, their sons Grant and Garrett Kohlbauer and Garrett’s girlfriend, Randi Wilken who are all members of Freeport Rural Fire Department. The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation also provides live satellite feed and streaming of ceremonies along with video of events for downloading courtesy of VISTA Worldlink and WUSA9.com.
As dusk turns to dark during the first weekend of October, more than 30 iconic buildings and landmarks across the country will glow in respect to the fallen and their survivors for Light the Night for Fallen Firefighters. Participants include One World Trade Center in New York, the Prudential Tower in Boston, the Willis Tower in Chicago, LAX in Los Angeles, and the Bank of America Plaza in Dallas.
Captain Kohlbauer’s wife Cathy informed us that Fire Chief Scott Miller of Freeport, stated that the fire station on South St/Walnut Avenue will also be lit in support of not only Eric, but all of the firefighters being honored. “I am very appreciative of the department showing their support of Eric and all of the fallen across the nation in this way”, Cathy told us.
As the Memorial Service begins on Sunday, October 8, the bells at the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Chapel will also chime. Local remembrances can occur any time between October 6 and 8, and can be a thoughtful moment of silence, a special reading or tolling a ceremonial bell by members of the local fire department.
Among those being honored is another Illinois fallen fireman, Kenneth K. Harris who was a Firefighter/Paramedic for the Oak Park Fire Department.
“We hope that this magnificent display of lights throughout the country will allow the survivors of the fallen to see that the nation is with them in spirit as they reflect on cherished times with their firefighters,” explained Chief Dennis Compton, Chairman of the Board of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.
For more information about the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend and the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, go to weekend.firehero.org.
To view the 2017 Roll of Honor and learn more about each fallen firefighter being honored, go to https://www.firehero.org/events/memorial-weekend/about/2017-roll-of-honor/
“Firefighters possess an extraordinary blend of courage and compassion which allows them to willingly face tremendous risks to help those in need,” said Chief Dennis Compton, Chairman of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation Board of Directors. “The National Fallen Firefighters Memorial is a testament to the ultimate sacrifice made by these brave men and women. All who visit the memorial throughout the year pause to honor these firefighters and reflect on the courage, sacrifice and strength of their survivors.”