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Families across North America travel many miles to see their heroes' name etched on a wall of honor

196 fallen firefighters IAFF

2017 Fallen Firefighter Memorial

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - **A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Jermaine Frye would be honored at the 31st Annual Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial. Mr. Frye was not a member of the IAFF. The annual memorial event only recognizes fallen firefighters who were members of the association.**

Families from across North America arrived today in Colorado Springs to honor their loved ones at the Fallen Firefighter Memorial event.

News Channel 13's Cinthia Maldonado spoke to some of the families who traveled hundreds of miles to see their heroes’ name etched on a wall of honor.

Thousands of fire fighters, grieving families from as far as Florida and Canada are paying tribute to 196 fallen firefighters that lost their lives in 2016.

"Ricky was a Toronto fire fighter and captain for 33 years. There was nothing he loved more than [spending time] with his brothers on the job," reads Cheryl Dale from the memorial book detailing the life of those fallen firefighters.  

Cheryl Dale traveled over 1,500 miles to see the name of her late husband engraved on a wall of honor.

"He died of melanoma cancer 16 months ago," says Cheryl.

Captain Dale acquired that illness from serving 33 years as Canadian fireman. Cheryl’s sister-in-law, Darlene Dale adds he was passionate about his service to the community, "Ricky always wanted to emulate the job work my dad did and he loved the job so much, made the best of his wonderful time here on earth and we all miss him."

"Mel through the years of the fires," Mavis McEachen continues to grieve the loss of her husband.
He too, also died of work-related cancers. She firsthand saw the hardships many firefighters face, “He kept a lot of things to himself thus far as talking about the fires."

Local firefighters say their brotherhood bond is deeply rooted no matter where the job takes them.

Mike Smaldindo, the Fallen Firefighter Memorial Director, explains their jobs are all the same. "We're all one, truly one big family it just happens to be, we all live all over the U.S. and Canada."

"This is the memorial that we come to every year to remember the fallen that have given the ultimate sacrifice in the performance of their jobs,” adds another local firefighter.

"It just makes my heart so full that everyone is going out of their way to make us feel so welcomed and to make it a beautiful time," says Cheryl Dale.

"He would have been so thrilled to know that he's being honored in a beautiful place here,” says Darlene Dale.

Although 196 names will be praised in honor, “It’s really just a name on a wall. It doesn't say anything of what he did or what he believed in or what he worked so hard for," the grieving continues.

Out of the 196 fallen firefighters—one of them is from the Springs area. Jermaine Frye served at the Cimarron Hills Department.

The Fallen Firefighter Memorial event is this Saturday at 10 a.m. and it's opened to the public.


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