For the past 20 years, I’ve had the privilege to volunteer at the annual Memorial Weekend sponsored by the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. From 1998-2000, I worked on a logistical crew moving stuff all over the campus in order to re-set the place for the in-coming families, their grief sessions, ceremonies, etc. In 2001, I was given the Operations Chief position and held it for13 years. Then for two years, I was the Deputy IC. Where is all of this going Ron? Well, this year I was bestowed the honor of working as the Memorial Weekend Incident Commander. For the first time, it was mine to make it succeed. It’s an awesome responsibility connected with honor and pride. So Ron, how did you do? We fared well. It takes about 1,000 volunteers to pull it off each year. Of the 1,000 about 600 and change are honor guard, pipes and drums. That group is one of 24 independent operating units that work cohesively throughout the weekend (and for the 10 months prior, planning for it) in order to accommodate our honored fire hero families. We use ICS and set up a Command Post (in Building S) in order to manage the 100’s of tasks and last minute requests that take place over the 5 day period. The Team gets on the ground on Wednesday and some operate until the following Tuesday, like the Transportation Group getting the families back to the airports.
Many people asked me if I was apprehensive or nervous prior to the weekend. Anybody would be, however it was easier for me than most. I had the A-Team with me. Most of the Command Staff have been together since 2002 when we took the weekend to Washington DC. That year we honored 445 families which included the 343 FDNY firefighters who perished on 9/11/01. The campus in Emmitsburg would not be large enough for the crowd. So, for this year, we conducted 4 on-campus planning sessions over the summer, sent 10,000 emails (I lost count) and made a few hundred phone calls. A 167 page IAP was prepared and we used an electronic timeline system to track our daily activities. We were ready. The weekend went well, but not without a hiccup here and there or a trip on a crack in the sidewalk. Overall, our honored families didn’t know about these and that’s the main idea. To give you a sample of our operating units: Operations, Logistics, Transportation, Security, Safety, Production, Honor Guard, Pipes & Drums, Finance & Administration, Child Care, Family Activities & Registration, NFFF Store Operations, Flag Presenters, Media, PIO, Military Liaison, Special Invited Guests, Chapel Vigil, Grief Sessions, and others. Mention must also be made of the full time NFFF staff, who work hard at it all year round and the USFA staff and their contractors for helping to make the weekend a success.
I couldn’t do bad. I had the A-Team sitting next to me.
Be well, stay well, be safe,