COLORADO SPRINGS — Days before the bagpipes are played, names are read and bell is rung, Colorado Springs-area firefighters volunteer their time to make the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Memorial as smooth as possible.
More than 100 volunteers, including active-duty and retired firefighters, take part in the wide-scale volunteer operation to care for the families and friends of their fallen brothers and sisters.
At Saturday's memorial, 250 names will be added to the wall.
John Roy, officer for the Local 5 union representing Colorado Springs' firefighters, said it's the least Colorado Springs can do to pay respect.
"When you're coming to a memorial service for one of your loved ones, the last thing you want to think about is getting transportation from the airport or making sure you get checked into your room safely," Roy said.
The efforts are coordinated from a micro-dispatch center inside the Antlers Hotel. Firefighters organize free travel, using a fleet of vehicles including 15-passenger vans and donated SUVs, for the friends and families while they're in Colorado Springs.
That includes pickup and drop-off service at the airport, at the memorial and other tourist attractions around town.
"We really try to provide an all-encompassing service so the family members that are coming here obviously get to experience the memorial, but they also get to experience the beauty of Colorado Springs. They get to have that recreational side and maybe take their mind off things a little bit," Roy said.
One of the more intricate parts of the operation focuses on quality control. Roy leads a team of firefighters that individually inspect the folded, enclosed flags that are given to each family to commemorate their fallen firefighter.
Using a list, they look over every part of the flag, which features the firefighter's name, union and local department.
"And then inspect that flag, the glass, the wood, everything to make sure when they receive that flag, it's the best impression they could get," Roy said.
It's an impression that's built on respect, love and service, because the loss of a firefighter isn't just felt by their home department.
The loss impacts the fire service near and far.
The 2019 IAFF Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial begins with a procession at 9:30 a.m. Saturday. The service itself begins at 11 a.m.