Honor Guard: Local firefighters pay tribute to Texas fallen
PORTLAND, Ore. - A few days after the explosion in Texas, firefighters there sent a simple Facebook message to firefighters in Oregon. They were strangers but they needed help honoring 12 Texas men who died.
Two firefighters arrived back home to Portland on Friday after spending a week helping the families of their fellow firefighters killed in that fertilizer plant explosion.
After the first wave of firefighters rushed to the burning plant just in time for the huge explosion last week that took their lives, the second wave of firefighters rushed to the plant this week.
Instead of hoses, they carried flags to serve in the honor guard. The honor guard is a volunteer corps that stands guard over the caskets of the fallen. Oregon proudly sent two - their long journey sewn onto the sleeves of Phil Burks' and Raina Eshleman's uniforms.
Said Eshleman: "It was kind of funny that the whole time we were there people would see the patch on the sleeve of our uniform where it says "Oregon Fire Service Honor Guard" and they would say, 'Well, where's Oregon?' And what they meant was is that in Texas? They couldn't wrap their minds around the fact that people would come all the way from Oregon to Texas to help them."
Burks said they didn't know anyone there.
"This was unknown land. We were told to buy a plane ticket, and they would get us to where we needed to go," he said.
They were needed with the fallen. The firefighters who died enjoyed the company of their comrades while their caskets waited for burial.
Even on the way to the Dallas Airport to come home Burks and Eshleman found a way to give even more. They heard about a family from Illinois who couldn't afford to bring the body of their Texas loved one back to be buried.
"Within an hour and 15 minutes as we were rolling down the highway, we had secured enough funds," said Eshleman.
Those donations came from firefighters and friends in Oregon.
They spent five days serving in the honor guard, but there are still 12 firefighters who are waiting to be buried there. So there are other firefighters from all around the country who are still serving in the honor guard until those funerals.
Burks works for the fire department on Mount Hood and Eshleman is a paramedic for Clackamas Fire.