Emmitsburg, MD (WIVB) - Among the 81 men and women honored during National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend 2013 are three Western New Yorkers.
The families of West Webster Firefighter Tomasz Kaczowka, West Webster Lt. and Past Chief Michael Chiapperini, and former Sheridan Fire Chief Ronald Keddie attended the the 32nd annual National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service in Emmitsburg, Maryland on Sunday.
The government shutdown threatened to interfere with the yearly event, which is held at the Fallen Firefighters Memorial. Because it's a federal site, it's currently closed.
But organizers were not about to let politics interfere with this important and moving tribute. Nearby Mount St. Mary's University instead offered to host the ceremonies.
Keddie, Kaczowka and Chiapperini's names have been engraved on a plaque that will eventually be placed at the Fallen Firefighters Memorial.
As is customary, their families were presented with personalized badges, red roses and American flags that have been flown over the memorial site and the U.S. Capitol building on Sunday.
Keddie - a Vietnam veteran and state fire instructor whose firefighting career spanned more than 40 years - was getting ready to respond to a car accident on June 27, 2012, when he suffered a massive heart attack.
Celebrants included Emmitsburg Mayor Donald Briggs, Congressman Steny Hoyer, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate and members of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.
"The firefighters we are here to remember today have made that ultimate sacrifice while serving our neighbors and loved ones. The selflessness of America's fallen firefighters embodies the true nature of courage. And together, we pay tribute to their memories, and to the strength and resilience of their families," said Fugate.
"It's not every day that one has the privilege of being in the company of so many American heroes. Americans owe a special debt of gratitude to all who serve us as firefighters, emergency medical responders, and law enforcement officers," said Rep. Hoyer.
Families were given access to the memorial site Saturday night, for a private candlelight ceremony.
The Honor Guard also took that time to continue the tradition of laying the Presidential Wreath in front of the memorial's eternal flame, something that's normally done during the Sunday ceremony.
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