Home News Local News Jeff Stroble to be honored at national memorial this weekend

Jeff Stroble to be honored at national memorial this weekend

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The name of Roswell firefighter Jeff Stroble, who died after a fireworks explosion in 2019, will be added to the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial this weekend.

Jeff Stroble (Submitted Photo)

Unfortunately, no one from Roswell will be attending the ceremonies. Fire Chief Matt Miller and the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation are still investigating what happened, but neither the department nor Stroble’s widow received notification of the ceremonies.

Reba Stroble said she was not aware of the ceremonies until RFD Chief Matt Miller contacted her Thursday morning.

Miller learned of the event when contacted for an interview by the Roswell Daily Record through the city’s Public Affairs Department.

A press release sent to the Daily Record by the foundation on Wednesday announced that Stroble and Chief William White of the Sun Country Volunteer Fire Department in Eddy County are among the 215 names of firefighters who died in the line of duty that will be added to the memorial in ceremonies Saturday evening and Sunday morning.

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Chief Ronald Siarnicki, executive director of the foundation, said he had spoken Thursday afternoon to both Reba Stroble and Miller and offered to help bring family and RFD firefighters to this weekend’s event in Emmitsburg, Maryland, but both said they will probably do so at a future date.

Both also said they had no hard feelings about the miscommunication.

“I’m glad they’re honoring him. It’ll be beautiful,” Reba Stroble said. She said she planned to watch the ceremonies online.

The events will be livestreamed at www.firehero.org and on the foundation’s Facebook page. A candlelight service will be from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Mountain Time Saturday, with the livestream beginning at 4:30 p.m. During that service, a plaque bearing the names of the firefighters being honored will be added to the memorial.

On Sunday, the memorial service will be from 8 to 10:30 a.m. Mountain Time with the livestream beginning at 7:30 a.m.

Siarnicki said the foundation sends out packages of information throughout the year to families and follows up by letter, e-mail and telephone and had made contact with both the family and the department.

“I don’t know what happened, whether they didn’t get the messages or didn’t get the mail, I don’t know,” he said.

“We did apologize to them,” he said.

Siarnicki said the foundation has offered to work with the family and the department when they are able to travel to the memorial.

“I said if you guys want to come up at another time, we’ll facilitate it, and we’ll make your visit special because we try to do everything we can to ensure that firefighters are never forgotten and that their families see the recognition that their firefighters deserve,” he said.

The weekend ceremonies will honor 215 firefighters, including 87 who died in 2020 and 82 who died in 2019. Last year’s ceremony — when Stroble was originally to be honored — was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year’s event is closed to the public due to the pandemic, but family members are allowed to participate, according to the press release. Siarnicki said about 700 family members will be present this weekend.

For those who will not be there, Siarnicki said the foundation will present them with a keepsake package that includes a U.S. flag flown over the memorial and the U.S. Capitol along with a commemorative badge and long-stemmed red rose, a symbol of the foundation’s commitment to family.

“We try to find a way to get them personally delivered,” he said.

Stroble, a fire apparatus operator and 17-year member of the department, died from injuries sustained from an explosion June 5, 2019, while he and other firefighters were packaging fireworks for the city’s planned Fourth of July fireworks display.

He and Robert “Hoby” Bonham, an 18-year member of the department, were both critically injured and transported to University Medical Center in Lubbock, Texas. The 10 other firefighters received minor injuries.

Bonham was released from the hospital and returned to Roswell at the end of June that year.

Stroble died July 21, 2019. His name is already at the memorial campus, on a brick purchased for its Walk of Fame.

Reba Stroble said that at the time her husband died, another RFD firefighter was attending a class at the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Maryland, where the memorial is located.

“His class actually paid for the brick, so I knew his name was there,” she said.

Miller, who was one of the 12 firefighters working in the bunker at the Roswell Air Center at the time of the explosion, said the honor is a wonderful thing but also horrible.

“There’s nothing worse than losing one of our own, but the fact that both Jeff Stroble and Chief (Steven) Jones are going to be memorialized forever is a really big thing,” he said.

Jones died in March 2002 after responding while off-duty to a fire call. While checking on a burn victim that was taken to a residence near the fire, he was shot by the burn victim and died 10 days later.

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.

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