It is fitting that one of the largest public gatherings in Odell in years was Sunday’s Fallen Firefighter Memorial.
About 300 people, including dozens of firefighters from departments throughout Hood River County, attended the solemn ceremony hosted by the Odell Fire Department. (Please see article, page A1.)
Chief Jeff Walker and EMS Capt. Dean Kinne unveiled the shiny black V-shaped column that bears the name of the firefighters who served the department and have since died.
On the right side of the column stands one name: John Hazlett, who died while in firefighting service on Aug. 19, 2001 — the only Odell firefighter to die in the line of duty. On the left side of the memorial column are the names of 33 men who served the department and achieved honorary status or died while active members of the department.
State Fire Marshal Bob Garrison said, “This memorial will stand in lasting tribute to all those who have demonstrated their dedication and bravery in the performance of their duty, losing their lives in order that the rest of us may live in peace and safety.”
Garrison quoted President Abraham Lincoln, from the Gettysburg Address: “It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they have so nobly advanced. It is — for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.”
Another president, John F. Kennedy, said this: “A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but by the men it honors, the men it remembers.”
Garrison said, “In this memorial here in Odell we reveal our true nature — that we honor and respect those who serve each day to protect us.”
The firefighter memorial has been a quiet project for two years as department members raised the money and designed and built the memorial. Sunday’s emotional service was itself quiet, and gracefully imbued with gratitude not only for the firefighters who have passed away, but also for the men and women now in service.
Throughout the service, the blue-clad Odell volunteers stood at attention, alongside their counterparts from other fire departments. Together, they represent a dedicated force, who, in the words of Garrison, are “the first in, and the last out.”