Memorial Day is a long standing tradition and an American holiday observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Back in the early 1900’s, it was not uncommon to see anybody who gave their life in performance of their civic duties to also be honored on that day.
In 1981, a 7-foot stone monument featuring a sculpted Maltese Cross, the traditional symbol of the fire service was erected in Emmitsburg, Maryland. An engraved plaque on the monument bears a message from President Ronald W. Reagan. At the base of the monument an eternal flame symbolizes the spirit of all firefighters — past, present and future. Plaques encircling the monument list the names of the men and women of the fire service who have died in service to their communities since 1981. Whenever a firefighter dies in the line-of-duty, fire officials post a notice of the death at the monument and lower flags at the site to half-staff.
Each October, America honors its fallen firefighters during a National Memorial Service at the monument site. The ceremony includes the placing of a Presidential Wreath at the monument and dedication of a plaque honoring those who died in the line-of-duty during the previous year. Stamford has many names on that monument. This years event will be held on October 3, 2021.
1910 – Firemen’s Memorial Day
According to an Advocate article dated June 3, 1910, a local committee would visit the graves of Chief Bowman, and Lewis Stadley at Wodland Cemetery; William Nolan, Owen McMahon, and Assistant Chief Zophar Horton at Springdale Cemetery; to place flags over their graves.
The Mid 1970’s
In the 1950-1960’s, Owen, Buckshot” Carrier started his own little project. Owen lived in this house along side a man named Sam Morrell. Sam was mailman but he was a real patriot. Too young for the Spanish American War and too old for WW1 he created his own “project” by finding and marking the graves of every Stamford serviceman from every conflict. The names and locations of those burial spots exist in books held by the Stamford Historical Society and this Stamford Fire Department History Group.
“Buckshot” was so taken by Sam’s dedication to the fallen, that he started his own “project” and began doing the exact same thing for Stamford Firefighters, both paid and volunteer. Those books are in the possession of this Stamford Fire Department History Group.
Not only did he catalog all deceased members and their burial spots, he would make sure that each one would have a special flag commemorating their service to the Citizens of Stamford. Why?
So that when families would show up to pay their respects to their loved ones, they would know that they have not been forgotten!
Sadly, that tradition died on January 4, 1967 when Owen Carrier died. Nobody took his place.
The Late 1980’s
In May 1987, Stamford Deputy Fire Marshal Jerry Ormond picked up where “Buckshot” left off. Jerry headed out on his own to place seventy five red & white Union flags at the graves of former Stamford Firefighters. But he had little information to go on. Sadly, he could only find twenty-five graves. It does not appear that Jerry knew that “Buckshot” had documented all the burial places in a little black book
Currently, there is nobody continuing with the tradition of putting flags out at the burial sites of former Stamford Firefighters or even those who gave their lives in the line of duty. But the Stamford Professional Firefighters Union (Local 786) did purchase commemorative plaques for each Firefighter who was classified as a Line of Duty Death (LODD). The plaques are up at the Station to which the member belonged.
These firefighters names are also the ones you can expect to see at the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial should you ever have the opportunity to visit.