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Community Lines the Streets to Honor Fallen Firefighter

Community Lines the Streets to Honor Fallen Firefighter

Members of the U.S. Marine Corps folded the American flag that draped over the casket of fallen Shawnee firefighter John Glaser as his wife Amber Glaser, right, held their son Brecken Glaser during a Celebration of Life ceremony at Church of the Resurrect

Kansas City Star via YellowBrix

May 30, 2010

OLATHE, KS – From “perfect child” to Marine reservist to Shawnee firefighter, John Glaser of Olathe wanted to help people. In a smoke-filled house last Saturday, he died trying.

On Thursday, hundreds of fellow firefighters in dress uniforms joined family, friends and police officers in saying goodbye to the first Shawnee firefighter to die in the line of duty.

The somber day started with an impressive procession. About 120 vehicles, including two fire trucks and two staff vehicles from Olathe, traveled slowly from a Shawnee funeral home to the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood.

The Olathe Fire Department also had a fire truck at a Shawnee station so that station’s apparatus could be in the procession. Olathe trucks also helped control traffic along the route and the department had an honor guard in attendance.

Along the route, American flags flanked the streets and community members lined the street in a show of reverence and thanks.

Garett Maag, 10, and his sister, Katelyn, 8, were among the students, parents and faculty members who walked from Hope Lutheran School to pay their respects.

Like most onlookers, the children didn’t know Glaser personally. But they understood and appreciated what he did — and what other firefighters do — to keep them safe.

“I think it was very important (to be there),” Garett said. “He risked his life for other people.”

As the motorcade approached the church, the vehicle carrying Glaser’s coffin passed under an American flag draped between two ladder trucks. Dozens of uniformed people stood as honor guards as the flag-draped casket was unloaded and carried into the church. For several minutes, firefighters wearing black uniforms and gripping their white hats filed in for the services.

The Rev. Adam Hamilton, the church’s senior pastor, described how Glaser had been “a perfect child” and “a remarkable boy who grew up to be an even more remarkable man.”

He spoke of Glaser’s love for his wife and two young children.

“Every diaper change ended with a kiss,” Hamilton said. The night before he died, Glaser, 33, took his family out to eat and spent the evening holding 6-month-old Emma.

A slide show of family pictures appeared on a large TV screen, illustrating the laughter and smiles that marked a promising life cut short.

In the days ahead, the preacher said, “don’t talk about John Glaser in hushed tones, but with laughter — the family will need that laughter and support.”

Glaser served in the Marine Reserves and decided to be a firefighter to help others, said Shawnee Fire Chief Jeff Hudson.

“John’s call to duty lived deep in his soul, and he showed that to us every day,” Hudson said.

“John lived ‘call to duty’ so much that he gave his life … because he thought someone was trapped in that burning home and he might be able to save them,” Hudson said.

He was a man who wanted to be a nice guy and help people, Hudson said.

“He gave his life doing just that.”

Hamilton said Glaser showed heroism in giving of himself to try to save another person.

“Today, John sees God face to face,” Hamilton said.

A statement from Glaser’s wife, Amber, was read, thanking everyone for their support:

“I, along with my kids, my family and John’s family, continue to struggle with our devastating loss. John died doing something he loved. Knowing that, as well as the outpouring of support from the community, has been a tremendous help to us as we deal with his passing.

“We cannot begin to express the tremendous gratitude we have for everyone that has been there for us.”

At the end of the service, the flag-draped coffin was taken to the south lawn area. It rested between two lines of firefighters in dress uniform. Some held glittering fire axes, and all wore black polished shoes that shined in the sun. Bagpipes bleated and Gov. Mark Parkinson of Kansas gave the widow a flag.

After a 21-round salute, a Marine also presented to her the flag that had draped the coffin. Seated in a chair, she held the flag on her lap with Emma. Glaser’s 2-year-old son, Brecken, sat with relatives nearby.

A fire alarm call went off and a voice said, “This is the last alarm for Shawnee firefighter John Glaser. … John, you will forever be missed. You will never be forgotten.”

As a sea of firefighters watched, bagpipes played “Amazing Grace.” Then a hearse carried John Glaser away.