A crowd of about 100 firefighters, first responders and their family and friends gathered Sunday at the Bryan County Administration Complex in South Bryan for the unveiling of the Bryan County Fallen Firefighters Memorial.
The ceremony revealed the fallen firefighters monument — a sculpture of a firefighter’s helmet and turnout gear folded neatly and placed on a pair of boots — situated behind the administration building.
“The fire service is known for many traditions, two such traditions are firefighter memorials and firefighter memorial services,” South Bryan Volunteer Firefighters Association Division Chief Mike Smith told the crowd. “While researching firefighter memorials, I was surprised to learn that they go as far back as the early days of the Roman Empire.
“When a Roman firefighter died in the line of duty, a bronze tablet was struck in memorandum of his service. The tablet would include his name, rank, dates of services and the manner of death. … It’s kind of interesting to learn that what we’re doing here today has been going on for over 2,000 years.”
The ceremony was also dedicated in memory of Terrell “Terry” Nielsen, a South Bryan volunteer firefighter who died in 2010 from injuries sustained during a fire training exercise.
During the ceremony, Bryan County Fire Capt. Asa Clay and Capt. Ron Becker presented Nielsen’s wife, Kathy Nielsen, with a painted portrait of her late husband, while his son, Jeff Nielsen, and grandson helped unveil the memorial that bears Terry Nielsen’s name as the first inscription.
“Within a few weeks of Terry’s passing, he was honored at the Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Savannah, … and his name was inscribed in that memorial then,” Smith told the crowd. “The following year Terry was honored at the Georgia state Fallen Firefighters Memorial located at Georgia Fire Academy in Forsyth.
“Last November at the National Firefighter’s Memorial located at National Fire Academy located at Emmitsburg, Md., Terry was honored in one of the most grand, impressive and moving ceremonies I’ve ever witnessed. Terry’s name was inscribed on that national monument. Today we bring Terry home to Bryan County.”
Before a wreath was laid at the memorial in honor of Nielsen by the Southside Fire Department Color Guard, Southside Fire Chaplain Dale Simmons explained the significance of the “5-5-5-5 call” in the fire department.
“One of the calls that was used by fire departments (in the past) was the tones, or bells, 5-5-5-5,” Simmons explained. “This indicated to the departments and community that they were back in their fire house and back in service awaiting their next call.
“It became custom for us as firefighters to honor those gone on before us in ceremonies to ring the bells to signify, 5-5-5-5, that our friends, brothers and sisters were back in their home awaiting us.
“Today to honor all of our firefighters in Bryan County who’ve gone on before us, we’re going to ring the bell signifying they’re home again.”
Read more in the March 27 edition of the News.