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Firefighters from Hilton Head Island and Bluffton are traveling to Emmitsburg, Md., this weekend so that honor guards from each agency can participate in the national ceremony for their fallen colleagues.'
This weekend's trip marks the first time the Bluffton Township Fire District and the Town of Hilton Head Island Fire and Rescue Division have gone to the ceremony in the small town that is home to the National Fire Academy. Six Bluffton firefighters and four Hilton Head Island firefighters are making the trip. Both departments made their first trip up for the national ceremony last year, but because it included the 343 New York firefighters who died on Sept. 11, the ceremony was moved to Washington to accommodate the large crowds.'
Three other South Carolina honor guards also will attend.'
One Bluffton firefighter who will be driving up North as part of the honor guard, said not going would be like missing a relative's funeral.'
"The fire service is a brotherhood; it's just like attending any other family member's funeral," said David Williamson, deputy fire marshal for the Bluffton fire department. "Even though we didn't know them, we feel that they're our brothers and sisters."'
"If there is any way to possible in the future, we'll try to send somebody," Williamson said.'
Like National Police Week in May, the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend is a chance to mourn colleagues who die on the job. This year, fire departments from around the nation will gather at the small town near the Pennsylvania border to honor 99 firefighters who died in 2002, and six who died previously, with a special ceremony.'
Events will include a candlelight vigil at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. The National Memorial service, where the names of the fallen firefighter will be read, will take place at 10 a.m. Sunday, led by the Secretary Tom Ridge of the Department of Homeland Security.'
Hilton Head has lost two firefighters in the line of duty, both before the island's two departments were combined in 1993, according to Capt. Terry Phillip. '
Frank Hut, 28, died while diving in Calibogue Sound on Dec. 21, 1987, with the Tactical Response Team of what was then the then Sea Pines-Forest Beach Fire Department. The division's station number one is named after him. Peter Christian, a volunteer firefighter with the same department, died during a training accident in 1974, and station number two is named after him.'
The Bluffton Township Fire District, which celebrated its 25th anniversary this summer, has not lost anybody on the job, Williamson said.'
Bluffton Firefighters attending this year's memorial weekend will be Deputy Fire Marshall David Williamson, Lt. Rick Cramer, Lt. Allen Cramer, Lt. Emerson Kovalanchick, firefighter Chris Garniewicz and firefighter John Torzilli. Commanding Hilton Head Island's honor guard unit will be firefighter/paramedic Ed Marcurella. Accompanying him will be senior firefighter EMT Perry Black, and firefighter EMTs David Britton and Rusty Wells.'
For more information on the event go to the official Web site at www.firehero.org.