Every fall, just as his three children were entering the third grade, Anaheim Fire & Rescue Battalion Chief Brent Faulkner would take each of them individually on a special trip.
He would take them to Sacramento to show his daughter and two sons the California Firefighters Memorial. The memorial, located in Capitol Park, pays tribute to the more than 1,300 firefighters who have died in the line of duty since California became a state in 1850.
One of the names on the memorial is AF&R Hazmat Capt. Rich Conner, who died on July 28, 2012 from job-related prostate cancer. Capt. Conner was Chief Faulkner’s first captain at Anaheim Fire & Rescue. The 26-year AF&R veteran was 55 years old.
The trips to Sacramento – for Faulkner’s daughter, Khloe, now 15; son Jared, 12; and son John, 10 – have engendered in the youngsters a deep appreciation of firefighters and other first responders.
On Wed., Oct, 16, Jared, an Eagle Scout candidate, showed up at Station 6 in Anaheim to deliver the fruits of his Eagle Scout project: mourning bands that are worn over AF&R badges when a California firefighter is killed in the line of duty.
That happens, sadly, about 10-15 times a year, said AF&R Capt. Rob Lester, president of the Anaheim Firefighters’ Association (AFA).
The AFA, Corona Firefighters’, and Riverside Firefighters’ Associations contributed money to Jared so an army of volunteers he managed could purchase materials for the black mourning bands, which they sewed together.
On Oct. 16, Jared presented to AF&R officials 560 mourning bands. In all, his team of about 30 volunteers spent more than 400 hours making 1,600 mourning bands; Jared presented the other bands to the Corona and Riverside Fire Departments.
“We’re very excited whenever we can help the youth achieve their goals,” AF&R Chief Pat Russell said at the mourning band presentation ceremony, held inside Station 6’s apparatus bay.
“A lot of young men get into scouting, but very few progress, and there are even fewer that progress to the level of Eagle Scout, so when we get an opportunity to help and assist with something like this, we’re very excited to do it,” Russell said.
“You picked a project that is very dear to our hearts,” Russell added, gesturing to Jared. “Unfortunately, (line-of-duty firefighter deaths) happen way too often. But this is a way for us to show respect to the (fallen first responders) and their families.
“It’s a very precious project for us.”
Jared, a seventh-grader at Matthew Gage Middle School in Riverside, where his Troop 6 is based, said he was moved when his father took him to the firefighter memorial in Sacramento.
“It’s important that families (of fallen firefighters) know people are caring about (their loved ones),” Jared said.
Brent Faulkner, who works out of Station 6, said it’s important for him to pass along the traditions of firefighting to his children.
“I’m really proud of Jared for what he chose to do here,” said Faulkner, whose wife, Kelly, is a dental hygienist.
AF&R Battalion Chief Robert McClellan is in charge of distributing Jared’s Eagle Project to the firefighters. McClellan said the mourning bands will be kept at Station 1 for firefighters to snag when they need to wear them.
Another Eagle Scout candidate, Ian Pase, 15, of Anaheim, and his father, Shane, attended the mourning bands presentation.
Ian, of Troop 538 in Anaheim Hills, is working on his own fire services-related Eagle Scout project. He’s making three boxes for people to drop off U.S. flags for proper disposal. The flag retirement boxes, set to be finished in December, will be given to AF&R stations 1, 6 and 8.
“A lot of people don’t really know how to retire flags,” Ian said. “There’s a whole ceremony behind it, and you have to burn them. A lot of people just throw flags away.”
Jared isn’t the first Faulkner child to make mourning bands for AF&R. His sister, Khloe, made 200 as part of a church project six years ago.
Jared is set to become an Eagle Scout at an age – he turns 13 soon – that’s almost unheard of.
“He’s extremely driven, he knows exactly what he wants, and he’s going to make it happen,” Brent Faulkner said.
Jared said he wanted to beat his father, who was 16 when he became an Eagle Scout, to the rank. Brent Faulkner’s Eagle Scout project was painting a church.
“I’m going to beat you to it,” Jared told him.
And so, it appears, he will.
Jared’s favorite subjects in middle school are English and history.
A movie buff, he wants to be a film director. His favorite directors are Steven Spielberg and George Lucas.
“He went to a ‘Jaws’ watching party just last weekend,” Brent Faulkner said.
Ian, a 10th-grader at Canyon High School, was blown away that Jared is set to become an Eagle Scout at barely 13 years old.
“That’s crazy!” Ian said. “Some don’t (make Eagle Scout rank) until they’re 18. And most are 16 when they get it.”
Said Ian’s father: “It’s very, very cool. It shows a (high) level of maturity.”