In 2006, former Bedford Firefighter Kevin Bury submitted a request to send several members of the Bedford Fire Department to an upcoming Honor Guard Academy to be held in Mansfield, Texas. Deputy Chief James Richardson responded to this request, and selected four members to attend the academy. During the academy, the firefighters received formal training in drill, ceremony, flag etiquette, fire department customs, courtesies, and burial procedures. After graduation in January of 2007, the four members formed the Bedford Fire Department Honor Guard.
The Honor Guard will represent the Bedford Fire Department at funerals, badge pinning ceremonies, memorial services, and any other function authorized or requested by the Fire Chief. Requests should be made through Fire Administration.
The Honor Guard uniform consists of a dark blue traditional coat and trousers with red piping on the sleeves of the coat, and red piping on the seams of the trousers. A red ascot is worn around the neck, and bloused inside the uniform coat. A unique gold honor guard coat badge is worn on the coat, and a red shoulder cord is worn draped on the left shoulder. The red color of the ascot, piping, and shoulder cord is a memorial to all firefighters who have made the ultimate sacrifice while serving the citizens they were sworn to protect. The Uniform is topped off with a white hat with black braid, and a gold Maltese Cross hat badge with “Honor Guard” inscribed on it.
The Maltese Cross is symbolic in meaning, and it dates back to the 12th Century. When a courageous band of crusaders known as the Knights of St. John, fought the Saracens for possession of the holy land, they encountered a new weapon unknown to European warriors. It was a simple, but a horrible device of war; it brought excruciating pain and agonizing death upon the brave fighters for the cross. The Saracen's weapon was fire. As the crusaders advanced on the walls of the city, they were struck by glass bombs containing naphtha. When they became saturated with the highly flammable liquid, the Saracens hurled a flaming torch into their midst. Hundreds of the knights were burned alive; others risked their lives to save their brothers-in-arms from dying painful, fiery deaths. Thus, these men became our first firefighters and the first of a long list of courageous firefighters.
Their heroic efforts were recognized by fellow crusaders who awarded each of them a badge of honor - a cross similar to the one firefighter's wear today. Since the Knights of St. John lived for close to four centuries on a little island in the Mediterranean Sea named Malta, the cross came to be known as the Maltese Cross. The Maltese Cross is your symbol of protection. It means that the firefighter who wears this cross is willing to lay down his life for you just as the crusaders sacrificed their lives for their fellow man so many years ago. The Maltese Cross is a firefighter's badge of honor, signifying that he works in courage - a ladder rung away from death.
If you have any questions, or would like to make a request for the Bedford Honor Guard, please contact Deputy Chief James Richardson at 817-952-2500.
As a member of our fire department honor guard, Ron Butler is our department bagpiper. He plays both for the department and as a member of a competition pipe band. The tradition of bagpipes played at fire department and police department funerals in the United States goes back over one hundred fifty years. When the Irish and Scottish immigrated to this country, they brought many of their traditions with them. One of these was the Great Highland Bagpipe, often played at Celtic weddings, funerals, and ceilidhs or celebrations (pronounced kay-lee).
It wasn't until the great potato famine and massive Irish immigration to the East Coast of the United States that the tradition of the bagpipes really took hold in the fire department. In the 1800's, Irish immigrants faced massive discrimination. Factories and shops had signs reading "NINA" - No Irish Need Apply. The only jobs they could get were the ones no one else wanted - jobs that were dirty, dangerous, or both - firefighters and police officers. It was not an uncommon event to have several firefighters killed at a working fire. The Irish firefighters' funerals were typical of all Irish funerals - the pipes were played. It was somehow okay for a hardened firefighter to cry at the sound of bagpipes when his dignity would not let him weep for a fallen comrade. (Lonestarpiper.com)