... to the people who dedicate their lives to helping you. People you depend on in an emergency who risk their
lives for you. These are your
firefighters and paramedics. They don’t like being called heroes. They say it’s just
their job. And they don’t like asking for help. So here’s
In 1988, one of the Miami Valley’s finest died as a result of injuries sustained in an explosion on Simms Street in Dayton. His name was Pat Yahle. As a result of that tragic event and a host of others, in 1992 Box 21 Rescue Squad Lieutenant Darrell Perkins and Rod Longpré of the Dayton Fire Department co-founded the Miami Valley Firefighter/EMS Memorial Association.
Darrell and Rod had first met at the scene of a terrible house fire where an entire family was lost. Shortly after that, and with Rod having recently started the Dayton Fire Department’s first Honor Guard, they formed this organization and staged its first event. Its purpose was to establish an annual memorial event to honor the sacrifice the Miami Valley’s firefighters and paramedics make for their communities every day. And once the event was established create a permanent memorial to remember the heroes who fell in the line of duty.
The Miami Valley Firefighter/EMS Memorial Association’s first annual memorial was held at the headquarters of the Box 21 Rescue Squad on Island Park. Such speakers as Brookville Chief Jim Nickel, Butler Township Chief Charlie Wiltrout and Fairborn Chief Robert Sponseler represented some of the departments that took part that day. Dayton Daily News Columnist Dale Huffman served as emcee.
In 1993 the Memorial Association’s second annual event was combined with another being staged by a group wanting to build a fire museum at Carillon Historical Park, called the Antique Fire Apparatus Expo. Carillon’s Executive Director Mary Matthews and Retired Dayton Fire Chief Glen Alexander were speakers that year, and due to its success the Association’s annual event was hosted there for the next several years.
By this time people were asking where the memorial was going to be located. Rod and Darrell had previously visited several Miami Valley firehouses to find flagpoles, plaques and other small remembrances dedicated to fallen heroes from individual departments. They had long since concluded a Miami Valley memorial to their collective sacrifices was essential.
For a couple of years it looked as though the actual memorial might be built at Carillon Historical Park. But the fire museum’s committee had given up hope of raising enough money to build the museum there. Without the museum there was no reason to build the memorial at Carillon, so Darrell and Rod started looking for a new home for it.
Then the reality of the necessary fundraising began to hit home. While they and others had staged raffles, fish fries and small concerts, and a few private donations had come their way, they realized they needed to raise some serious money to build this memorial. And the question of where remained unanswered.
Among many potential venues for it they contacted Five Rivers MetroParks about including it in Riverscape. They spoke to Sinclair Community College about having it at the Fire Sciences Technologies building. But nothing seemed to work out location wise.
Then as the group was looking for the 1998 program site, a Washington Township firefighter suggested they consider a small community park in Centerville. Stubbs Memorial Park already had a large amphitheater, plenty of parking and restroom facilities. Following that year’s successful event they discussed the idea of installing the permanent memorial there. The City of Centerville offered them free park space and asked how else they could help the Memorial Association achieve its goal. And recently the City found them an even better site right next to that amphitheatre where the memorial event is now held every year.
From the beginning, the Miami Valley Firefighter/EMS Memorial Association believed it was essential to honor every man and woman who had ever served on a Fire/EMS department: full time, part time and volunteer, anyone and everyone in the Miami Valley who had responded to the call for help. And that it was especially important to honor the heroes who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty.
Every year, audience members are invited to take part in the program by coming forward to help read the names of the Miami Valley’s fallen heroes. And every year the sponsoring organizations that have helped the Association’s efforts are also honored and invited to participate. Without the assistance of organizations like Dayton Fire Department Local 136 the Memorial Association never would have made it this far.
Now the Miami Valley Firefighter/EMS Memorial Association is launching a major fundraising campaign to build the best Miami Valley Firefighter/EMS Memorial ever imagined. Choosing the winner of its statewide juried arts competition, Jon Barlow Hudson to build it. Working to prepare the ideal setting for its permanent home. Training more participants for the annual event it will anchor. Establishing an endowment for its ongoing upkeep. Reaching out to corporations, foundations, non-profit organizations and individuals.
While the Miami Valley Firefighter/EMS Memorial Association has accumulated limited funds over the years, they are now trying to raise a total of $100,000 to cover the hard costs associated with: marketing and promoting the entire project; staging and advertising the arts competition; expanding and preparing the permanent site; designing and constructing the outdoor memorial; establishing and securing an endowment fund for its upkeep; and sponsoring and training the honor guards that represent those who still serve.
So now, after 18 years of hard work, sweat and tears, the Miami Valley Firefighter/EMS Memorial Association is very close to fully realizing its original goal. To create a memorial worthy of the fallen and a living monument to those who risk their lives for the Miami Valley, every day.