Honor guard holding 24-hour vigil over remains of local firefighter

LAKE OSWEGO, Ore. - Firefighters will watch over the urn carrying the ashes of one of their own until a service is held Friday.

John Percin Jr., 24, was killed along with 18 other Hotshots June 30 when they were overrun by a wildfire they were fighting in Arizona.

Percin was raised in Oregon and graduated from West Linn High School, where he played basketball and football. He moved to Arizona almost three years ago.

His family brought him home Wednesday, landing at Portland International Airport with his remains. From there he was driven down Interstate 205, a route lined by many of his firefighting brothers and also by members of the public wishing to pay tribute to the man. The procession ended at the Lake Oswego fire station.

{>}{>}{>}View photographs of the procession and honor guard

It is there that Percin's marble urn will be under constant watch by two members of the Oregon Fire Service Honor Guard. They were with Percin and his family in Arizona and on the flight back home.

After the procession from the airport, the truck carrying Percin's ashes parked out front of the fire station. Honor guard members then carried the urn, along with a picture of Percin, into the building and set it on a table.

A few dozen people lined the sidewalk across the street from the fire station as the procession arrived. Dressed in summer clothes, they placed their hands over their hearts. Above them, a worker in a financial planner's office scrambled to put a large American flag in a window.

Percin's family entered the fire station outside the view of television cameras and did not speak with reporters. Chaplain Steve Brodehl consoled Percin's parents and two brothers during the brief ceremony that included no speeches.

"I've been the chaplain almost 25 years and I still don't know (what to say); there are no words," Brodehl said. "I just looked at John Sr. and told him, as a dad, 'Oh my God. I can't even imagine. I can't imagine what your heart's feeling.'

"Sometimes I think we try so hard to fill those spaces with words, when we really just need to stand beside them and be that officer of calm, so to speak, that place to lean."

The public may pay tribute at the fire station from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday. A public memorial service is planned at 1 p.m. Saturday at Rolling Hills Community Church in Tualatin.