‘It’s second nature’: Ceremony honors firefighters who sacrificed their lives in service to others
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WGEM) - Four firefighters were honored today for losing their lives in service to their communities through the fire department. It’s a large sacrifice, but to the fire fighters at the memorial today, they say what they do is nothing out of the ordinary.
“I did what I had to do,” said Executive Director of the Illinois Firefighter Memorial Committee and retired Chief James Grady, when asked what those men and women say when commended for their bravery. “I did what I needed to do, and I did what I love to do.”
Four men died in the past year while battling fires. Garrett Ramos of the Sterling Fire Department, Michael Pickering of Engine 29 in Bridgeport, MaShawn Plummer of Engine 94 in Portage Park, and Medhi Maourad of the Wabash Fire Protection District, all died in 2021. Their surviving families and friends gathered today to remember their lives.
“Firefighters have long been admired for their willingness to put their own well-being behind that of the people they are sworn to protect,” Illinois Fire Marshal Matt Perez said. “This inherent desire overrides other’s instinct of self-preservation, and wills fire fighters to move heaven and earth to save a life.”
“To some, this may seem like a risky endeavor, but to us it’s truly a blessing to have this opportunity to help others during the worst moments of their lives,” he continued. “There’s no doubt that this sentiment ran strong in the blood of our fallen brothers.”
Each family was given the Line of Duty Death Gold Badge in remembrance of their loved one. One of the fire fighters honored today, Plummer, was recalled by family as always wanting to be a firefighter.
“He got up everyday with purpose,” his mother Felicia Townsend Plummer said. “When he did his first ride-along he said ‘Mom, this is what I was put on this earth to do. This is what I was supposed to do.’”
She and Plummer’s father, Jermaine Plummer, said the last year of their son’s life was one of his happiest. He had been in the fire department for one year before he was killed while battling a fire in Chicago in December of last year.
They were comforted by the support from fellow fire fighters and their families. They said MaShawn had no children of his own, and that this service was his legacy.
Additionally, several state officials and members of the General Assembly were there to offer their condolences. Gov. J.B. Pritzker highlighted each man’s life and laid a wreath on the memorial outside the Illinois State Capitol building.
Beyond remembering those lost to their service, the Illinois Fire Service also recognized individuals who showed exemplary courage and bravery. They were awarded to several individuals who put themselves at personal risk to save another person.
The highest honor available, the Medal of Honor, was awarded to Cicero Fire Department Lt. Brian Kulaga, who rushed into a burning building without equipment to save two men in an apartment fire that left the unit filled with smoke.
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