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Sea of Blue march honors fallen firefighters

Mayor declares Fallen Firefighters Memorial Day at ceremony downtown

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Hundreds of firefighters, including those from neighboring counties, walked the streets downtown in the second annual "Sea of Blue" march Thursday.

The demonstration was a special way to honor and remember those firefighters who gave their lives in the line of duty.

"We wish we could do more, but that's all we have to offer now, is to say, 'Thank you,'" JFRD Chief Kurt Wilson said.

A procession that began near the Jacksonville Landing downtown ended at the Jacksonville Fire Museum on Gator Bowl Boulevard, where a memorial service was held. At the service, Mayor Lenny Curry declared Oct. 29 "Fallen Firefighters Memorial Day."

Twenty-two firefighters with the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department have died in the line of duty since the department was formed in the late 1880s. Those 22 firefighters' names are inscribed on the fallen firefighters' memorial and were read aloud during the ceremony Thursday.

One of those names was Klif Kramer (pictured), who died 10 years ago.

"To have everyone remember Klif and to remember all the guys who have given so much, and to see the community and how much they respect and understand what firefighters do for the community," said Linda Kramer, Klif Kramer's mother.

JFRD wants to remember its own with the march and also show people the sacrifice that can come with protecting others.

Every time there's a call to 911, every sound of the sirens means there's a chance it could be a firefighter's last rescue.

"There's a saying in our job that what we do is inherently dangerous. Each year we are reminded of that. That's why we do our fallen firefighters' memorial," said Chief Kurt Wilson with JFRD.

It's a memorial designed with a purpose. The hundreds of participating firefighters wore their dress uniforms and marched together in honor of the 22 Jacksonville firefighters who gave their lives in the line of duty.

"Although they can't be here, you want to remember them. You want to honor them. You want to show their families that it wasn't in vain. We have a number of families that are still grieving over the loss of their loved ones," said Wilson.

One of the 22 fallen firefighters was Neal Tarkington, an engineer at Fire Station 4. He died in 2008, just a few hours after returning home from a busy shift. He was 43 years old.

Another of the names read was that of Kilif Kramer, who was killed in the line of duty 10 years ago.

"He would have done anything for anyone," said his mother, Linda Kramer. "He's probably sitting up on the corner of the building thinking this was the most
wonderful thing." 

Participants in the walk started north on Hogan Street to Duval Street in front of City Hall. From there, they turned south on Laura, then headed east on Independent Drive under the Main Street Bridge. They then took Newnan to Bay Street and ended at the museum.

For fire union President Randy Wyse, the march is also a great way to involve the citizens of Jacksonville.

"This event does kind of bring it to light a little bit that firefighters have been killed in the line of duty in this city," Wyse said. "Citizens see the trucks running every day in the streets. If you don't call 911, you kind of take that for granted." 


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