|Friday, Sep 27, 2013|
On Wednesday, September 25, Brandi Browning, a NPS employee with the Department of the Interior Medical Standards Program, worked with a group of college students from the College of Western Idaho (CWI) on a community service project in the Wildland Firefighters Monument at the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) in Boise, Idaho.
The monument features vegetation typical of the Great Basin, a waterfall, and a walking path lined with stones inscribed with the names of wildland firefighters who have been killed in the line of duty or have passed on, but are remembered within the wildland firefighting community. Brandi noted, "the students came to NIFC thinking it was going to be pulling weeds and basic area beautification within the monument."
When the group arrived at the Wildland Firefighters Monument, which honors all past, present, and future firefighters, Brandi pointed out a few things to be aware of, and the respect they needed to show while in the monument. Brandi stated, "needless to say they were very respectful and very aware of where they were." Brandi and the group spent the next two hours working. While the group worked, they started to comment on things they were seeing and before long they were all reading each stone and taking a lot of time to clean each plaque and the personal objects left by visitors on the stones. One student even had to walk away, to take a few minutes because he was so overwhelmed with emotion.
Brandi pointed out to them that these are not just stones with names, these were brave men and women that were moms and dads and daughters, sons, husbands, and wives, and they did this knowing the risks and some paid the ultimate price. They risked everything to protect total strangers and were real life heroes that never asked for anything in return.
According to Brandi, "for the students, this started as a 2-hour 'community service project,' but it ended as a humbling awakening. It was a powerful day and they all, hands-down, loved getting the chance to honor the firefighters who gave all. They left feeling that they gained more from the experience than they gave, and I felt it was an honor to witness this."