Communities Remember Fallen Firefighters with Helmet Blessing

Wood River, NE-- Ten years ago Friday, two Wood River fire fighters were in an accident on the job that sent them to the hospital. Bob Heminger passed away the next day, and Kenny Woitalewicz two days after that.

"Heavenly Father, Almighty eternal God we humbly, and we trustfully implore you to bless these helmets worn by our firefighters." That is the beginning of the prayer given by Pastor Matt Troyer-Miller for all firefighters while honoring the two who lost their lives.

Kenny's wife Melissa said, "It's not only to honor Bobby and Kenny for the sacrifice they made but to remember those that are in the firefighter profession that still do this on a daily basis."

With over 200 in attendance, Wood River and the surrounding communities came out to show they care.

Wood River Volunteer Fire Chief Todd King said, "The community's always been a big supporter of us, but even more so. They realize now the sacrifices we make everyday in doing our job and not just the sacrifices we make, but the sacrifices our families make on a daily basis."

"We get a lot of our support from a survivor network. There are other survivors that walk in the same shoes that we walk in on a day to day basis. We all have that same journey and that journey is to heal," added Melissa.

That is why Melissa Woitlewicz and Eva Heminger joined the line of duty response team, and they weren't alone.

Bob's wife Eva said, "So many times the families really need someone to talk to that's been there. That's what we're on the team for."

King added, "I've become part of the Line of Duty Response Team which has helped me to carry the message of what Wood River went through and help prevent another fatality hopefully and if not, if there is another fatality, to help serve that community that that fatality happens in."

Firefighters are also learning from the tragic accident in how they train.

Bob's Daughter Lindsay said, "I think this accident happening in 2004 has increased the actual training of fire departments. They're training safer, they're training smarter, have newer equipment to make it more safe for their firemen."

The families agreed there have been good days and bad days since the loss. And this, they said, was a very good day.

Melissa said, "Things like this are a huge step forward. This is healing to me, this is not about the sadness from 10 years ago, this is a good thing and it only helps us move forward a little more."

A lot of tears were shed at Saturday's event.

It was mentioned there have already been 16 deaths in the line of duty in 2014 nationally. The families however are happy that there has only been one in Nebraska since the loss of their loved ones.


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