SALISBURY — Can it be five years?
The Salisbury Fire Department, city officials and families of fallen firefighters Vic Isler Sr. and Justin Monroe gathered this morning for an annual memorial service.
It was five years ago today, on a much colder morning of rain and wind, that Isler and Monroe lost their lives in the Salisbury Millwork Co. fire off Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue.
A memorial wreath for Isler was placed at the Firemen's Memorial by his wife, Tracy, and their children, Victor Jr. and Ryan-Ann.
Justin Monroe's brother, Mark, and Mark's wife, Krista, placed an almost identical wreath in memory of Justin.
Justin's mother, Lisa, also was in attendance. This was the first memorial service missed by her husband and Justin's father, Eddie, who died last year.
Salisbury Fire Chief Bob Parnell described Monroe, who was a 19-year-old part-time firefighter for Salisbury at his death, as a “rising star” in the department, well on his way to becoming a full-timer.
Monroe was an avid hunter and fisherman, who often went duck hunting with Parnell's son, Bobby, now a major league baseball player for the New York Mets.
Bobby often marveled at Justin Monroe's hunting prowess and how he could “shoot a duck without trying,” the chief said.
Isler, 40 when he died, was so determined to be a full-time firefighter he moved his family from New York to the South, where his age was less restrictive.
Parnell said Isler's mantra around the station was “no worries.”
Often, Isler told Parnell, “No worries, chief, we got this.”
Parnell said he hoped today's brief memorial service could serve as a celebration of the lives of both men.
“We'll never forget them,” Mayor Paul Woodson said. “They will always be in our heart.”
The service included the sounding of the bell — three sets of five rings — marking the passing of a firefighter. The bell was draped in black cloth.
The American flag also was presented to the Fire Department Honor Guard, commanded by Capt. Rick Fleming, and the flag was raised, then lowered to half-staff.
Taps also were played, and the service ended today, as the men's joint memorial service in Salisbury did five years ago, with the reciting of the Fireman's Prayer:
The last stanzas of that prayer goes like this:
I want to fill my calling
And give the best in me,
To guard my every neighbor
And protect their property.
And if according to your will
I should lose my life,
Please bless with your protecting hand
My children and my wife.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.