On September 16, 2023, 572 firefighters had their names placed on the IAFF Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial Wall in Colorado Springs memorializing their service forever. Of these 572, 24 of them, of which Chip was one, were added due to PTSI which developed over the course of their careers. To say it was an emotional weekend is an understatement and 3 weeks later I am still processing. It has been 6 years since Chip’s suicide, and I have grieved every day of those 6 years, but this weekend was not about me or any one individual for that matter. It was a collective celebration of 572 husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and friends. These heroes lost their lives due to suicide, cancer, heart attacks, fatal injuries including blunt trauma, gunshot wounds, burns and smoke inhalation as well as Covid-19.
With the Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial, the IAFF has created a service that honors and celebrates both the lives and sacrifices of these men and women. This celebration was not just about mourning the loss of our loved ones. It was about celebrating their lives and reinforcing the familial bond that connects members of the fire service and their families. As you stand at the parade and listen to the rhythm of the drums, you feel a part of the collective heartbeat with everyone standing beside you, mourning our communal loss. But at the same time, you are reminded you are not alone. You are surrounded, understood, and strengthened by those around you.
I feel blessed that I was able to experience this event with my family and friends as we shared our grief with total strangers. The feeling of being understood and honored for our loss will remain with me forever. My hope for the future is that we continue to honor those who sacrificed so much for their communities, and we continue to recognize the sacrifices those families continue to make each day as they move on. As Chip is now honored on this wall, it is a reminder that what my family and I are doing is not about us. We are not here to simply share our grief or honor Chip’s memory. We are here to make sure that members of the fire service have access to the help and support they need so that their names will not be added to this wall. My family and I are so incredibly grateful for the support the Chip Terry Fund has received and we are honored to continue to protect those who protect us.