Honoring retired volunteer firemen is a project the Shelby Volunteer Fire Department is undertaking and they need your help. The Retired Firemen Memorial Wall is potentially a statewide project being spearheaded by the Shelby Fire Department.
“A few years ago, the Shelby Volunteer Fire Department had several seasoned veterans retire. Guys like Dan Whitted, Joe Pehan, Norman Nelson and Lyle Kimmet, all retired around the same time and a group of us were talking about a way to honor them, and the hundreds of others just like them, from around the state,” said fireman Ron Buck. “We give them a watch and a party and that just isn’t enough to show them and the community how much they truly mean to us and to their communities.”
“The idea of a retired memorial wall was brought up. I worked with Jim Asper at the Asper Funeral Home and we came up with a design that would not only honor our state firefighters, but it will have hidden meaning as well. We have approached the State Volunteer Association with the idea and are working to get it rolling.”
The cost of this monument is estimated at approximately $80,000. The wall was originally going to be located in front of the Shelby Fire Department, but organizers are now leaning towards having it at Meadowlark Park, on the south side of the station.
“The total cost of the wall will be around $80,000,” said Buck. “We are certainly hoping to raise the money quickly, but we feel that the other departments from around the state will also work to raise funds.”
The original goal for completion was next year, when the department will be hosting the Montana State Fire Convention, but the project has taken longer than expected to get up and moving forward. The new goal is Sept. 11, 2021, the 20th anniversary of the attacks on the U.S.
“And part of the wall pays tribute to the heroes of 9-11,” added Buck.
To date the biggest challenge has been getting things rolling throughout the state. Fundraising is always a challenge, but the more the word gets out, the more people will help.
“It has just been our department thus far, but I believe the other volunteer departments in our state will jump on board and assist as they have the opportunity,” said Buck.
When most people hear “memorial” they automatically think of those that gave the ultimate sacrifice. Recognizing and honoring those who are willing to put their own lives at risk in order to help others is something the community should strive to do, and to do while they are still around to see the appreciation.
“As a firefighter, I know the sacrifice that is given each week to serve the community,” said Buck. “Firefighters don’t join to be a hero or to drive a fire truck. We join to serve our community; we help people on their absolute worst day. Because we know the sacrifice that these 20-year plus retired guys have given, we feel it is important to honor them while they can see it. We want the retired firefighters from across the state to be able to take their children and grandchildren to the wall and show them how much their service meant to their community and to the State of Montana as a whole.”
ith the wall being located in Shelby, the Shelby VFD would be in charge of the upkeep and adding the names annually to it. Buck explained that the plan is to have names added once a year, around Memorial Day, and that an engraving company would come in and add the names of those that retire. Asper Funeral Home will be assisting in that process.
There is currently a GoFundMe account set up for the Firemen’s Memorial Wall on Facebook. If you would rather bypass the GoFundMe, the department is also accepting checks.
“Please just note that the money is for the memorial project on the bottom,” said Buck. “Checks can be sent to the Shelby Volunteer Fire Department, P.O. Box 310 Shelby, MT 59474.”
These heroes are willing to rush into burning homes, out to flames consuming the prairie and other life-threatening situations, while also hosting barbecues, car shows and other events to give back to the communities they serve. If everyone who appreciates the services and dedication given by these brave men and women across the state steps up and donates even just a little bit, the goal of having a place of honor and recognition will be a reality come 2021.