JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department on Tuesday morning hosted its annual Fallen Firefighter Memorial Observance to pay tribute to the 22 local heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Neal Tarkington’s family was one of many at the memorial service, which was held on Fire Station No. 1 on North Liberty Street.
“We come here every year. My father is the last name on there -- Neal Tarkington. He actually died of a massive heart attack in the line of duty,” Tarkington’s son said. "So we come to honor him and bring our whole family every year. "
Tarkington’s October 2008 death was the most recent in the line of duty in the department.
“It’s very beautiful, though, being able to keep his memory alive and it’s also a very good thing that 2008 was (the) last name on there. So for 11 years, we haven’t had anyone else fall in the line of duty. That’s very wonderful and I’m thankful for all families that haven’t had to suffer that,” Tarkington’s son said. "I’m so grateful that they keep such an honor and such memories alive of my farther. It’s very beautiful and I’m very thankful for them. "
Through prayer and invocation, the 22 fallen firefighters were honored and remembered throughout the ceremony.
This year, JFRD created plaques for the names of the fallen firefighters to be placed at the location of their last assigned fire department.
“This is just our way of letting them know they will not be forgotten, letting their families know they’ll never be forgotten and that their sacrifice is not in vain,” JFRD Chief Keith Powers said.
Mayor Lenny Curry proclaimed Dec. 17, 2019, as Fallen Firefighter Memorial Day in Jacksonville.