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Jacksonville firefighters honor those who have died in the line of duty

Published on December 14, 2022 at 3:40 pm

Beth Rodgers admits there are still some sad times 22 years after her fire lieutenant husband died from a heart attack after handling dozens of runs with the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department.

But as she attended Wednesday’s annual Fallen Firefighter Memorial Day at Station 1, at 600 N. Liberty St., she is glad that the name of Lt. Glenn A. Rodgers and 24 other firefighters who have died in the line of duty since 1885 are engraved there.

That helps make it “a little easier every day,” she said.

“This always brings it home and lets me know that no one ever forgets him,” she said. “He’s always remembered. Every day, somebody walks by that wall and says, ‘Hey, Glenn was here and we miss him.’ It’s amazing.”

Fire Chief Keith Powers gazed out at the memorial, where the last three names were added only a year ago — department members felled by medical issues or COVID-19 suffered on duty. That made 2021’s day of remembrance an “extremely difficult” one for the department.



“JFRD had to add the names of three firefighters who chose service before self and laid down their lives in service to this department and this city,” Powers said. “Three firefighters will ever be enshrined on this wall and remembered for their sacrifice. But the other 22 men whose names are on this wall will never be forgotten either, men who left behind grieving families, men who also chose service before self.”

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The memorial wall was dedicated June 29, 1987, 14 names placed on it, the 3,000-pound brass bell embedded in its brick structure once topping an early 20th century City Hall. The late Wayne Doolittle, a retired firefighter, found the bell abandoned in 1986 in a city storage room.

The earliest fatality listed on the memorial wall is that of Firefighter Henry Bradley on Dec. 16, 1885. But prior to last year, the last time a new name was added was in 2008. That was when Engineer Neal Tarkington, a 43-year-old special operations member of Ladder 4, died of a heart attack after leaving the station. Then last year, those three new names were unveiled.

One is 36-year-old Fire Engineer Michael J. Freeland, who died Nov. 11, 2021, while trying to rescue a woman whose truck had hit a power pole just blocks from Fire Station 73 where he worked. Also added was Capt. Thomas Barber, 51, who died June 14 after coming home from a shift at Station 25 from a heart attack, his family said. Then on Aug. 17, the COVID-19 virus claimed 17-year-veteran Lt. Mario Moya, also 51.

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As current firefighters lined North Liberty Street holding helmets bearing the names of those who died, Mayor Lenny Curry said those 25 men made “the ultimate sacrifice” as he called firefighting one of the noblest professions.

“Few among us would run into gunfire to help those injured in a crowd, wade chest-deep into rising waters to rescue those stranded in their homes, or charge into roaring flames and dark smoke to carry victims to safety,” Curry said. “These heroes on this wall are among those who would.”

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The names of those men killed in the line of duty were read out during Wednesday’s “Last Alarm Roll Call,” as fire department honor guard Commander Justin Adler tolled the bell. And Powers also reminded the men and women of the department to look out for each other as well as they do those they save every day.

“There’s lots of reasons that members end up on this wall. And when that happens, I think we need to be better brothers and sisters keepers to the family,” Powers said. “I think I have failed on that to some degree, and I’m going to do better. And also our brothers and sisters keepers, every day; if we see our brothers and sisters struggling for whatever reason, and we need to do that.“

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The ceremony ended with a 21-gun salute from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office honor guard, followed by Taps and “Amazing Grace” performed by the fire department’s Fife and Drum Corps. The fire department also unveiled a new granite bench and fountain at the memorial statue unveiled at the fire station last year, so visitors and families can sit there and remember, Powers said.