By Kathy Chaffin
Fire and rescue honor guards from all over will be helping with the visitations and joint funeral of Salisbury’s two fallen firefighters.
Ronnie Fulcher, commander of the Rowan County Fire and Rescue Association Honor Guard, said honor guard members from Catawba County, Charlotte, Concord, Davidson County, Mooresville, Randolph County, Thomasville and Wilson as well as Lynchville and Virginia Beach of Virginia will help with today’s visitations and Thursday’s joint funeral service for Justin Monroe and Victor Isler.
Honor guard members and firefighters from other counties and states are expected to attend the visitations and funeral.
Honor guard members from Massachusetts, for example, were coming, Fulcher said, but their travel plans fell through.
Times for the visitations and funeral and directions to their locations are posted on www.firehouse.com and www.firenews.net.
Visitation for Isler, 40, of Harrisburg will be held this afternoon from 1 to 4 at Lyerly Funeral Home, 515 S. Main St. Visitation for Monroe, 19, of Spencer will follow from 6 to 9 p.m. at Miller’s Ferry Volunteer Fire Department, 2650 Long Ferry Road.
The funeral will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday in the Omwake-Dearborn Chapel at Catawba College.
Fulcher said honor guards in dress uniform ó one holding a ceremonial fire ax and the other holding a ceremonial pike pole ó will be posted at each end of Isler’s casket beginning at around 10:30 this morning.
“We will rotate the sentinels every 15 minutes,” Fulcher said.
Although there will be only two honor guard members with the casket at a time, Fulcher said he expected 30 to 40, maybe even more, to participate in the rotation.
In addition to honoring the two firefighters’ service to the community, he said the honor guards will be “showing their families how much we appreciate what they have done.”
In the case of Monroe and Isler, they sacrificed their lives to protect the property and lives of others. Fulcher said honor guard members “are proud to be able to honor them in this way.”
A volunteer firefighter with Bostian Heights since 1975, Fulcher was one of the charter members of the Rowan honor guard when it organized in 1998.
All nine members of the Rowan County Fire and Rescue Association Honor Guard are volunteers.
“It’s something you have to want to do,” Fulcher said of the members. “A lot of people may see us occasionally in a parade or something like that …
“We’re there to help promote the fire service, but we’re also there to honor our brothers and sisters in the fire service when they pass on,” he said.
Fulcher, who is 53, was personally acquainted with one of the fallen firefighters. He said he got to know Isler last fall when they took a couple of classes together at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College.
“I had seen Justin Monroe at the fire stations,” he said, “but I didn’t know him as well.”
Rowan honor guard members also participate in visitations and funerals for firefighters who die from natural causes, Fulcher said. Members, for example, were part of a visitation and funeral last week for Tim Hand of the Liberty Fire Department, who died following a long battle with cancer.
Whether or not the honor guard participates in services depends on the firefighter’s last wishes, as well as the desires of the firefighter’s family.
“A lot of times, they just want a very quiet, simple funeral,” Fulcher said, “and they don’t care anything about having the honor guard.
“Others want to honor their lives in the fire service, so we go by whatever the families want.”
Contact Kathy Chaffin at 704-797-4249 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Kathy Chaffin