Macon-Bibb firefighter William DeWitt jumped at the chance to climb 72 flights of stairs in full gear to honor fellow firefighters who have fallen in the line of duty.
“When one of us hurts, we all hurt,” said DeWitt, part of a team of Middle Georgia firefighters who are participating in the 2017 Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Tower Climb Atlanta on June 24. “We’re a brotherhood. ... We don’t take that lightly.”
The midstate team effort, a fundraiser, is being spearheaded by Servants Task Force, a Warner Robins-based nonprofit that seeks to honor Vietnam War-era veterans.
The funds raised will cover registration fees for firefighters for the event, which the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation uses to pay off mortgages and bills of fallen firefighters and to build specially adapted smart homes for catastrophically disabled veterans. Stephen Siller was a New York firefighter who lost his life in 9/11.
Additionally, funds raised over the registration fees will benefit the family of 29-year-old fallen Macon County firefighter Darrell Plank, said Steve Rodgers, Servants Task Force president and CEO, at a news conference about the event Monday.
Plank died May 23 of a head injury sustained while battling a fire May 20. He left behind a wife and five young children.
William McComb, who owns Firehouse Subs in Warner Robins and Kathleen, has donated $1,000 toward the registration fees.
Starting next week, McComb said he also plans to offer $8 box lunches — of which $2.75 will be donated to the fundraising effort — at all three of his restaurants. The box lunches would be delivered at a later date.
“This is an opportunity for the community to step up and be a hero for your heroes,” McComb said.
Also Monday, Robins AFB firefighter Lt. Marcus Wright handed Yoder $200 for the Plank family after a firefighter helmet was passed among base firefighters.
The midstate team also includes firefighters from Warner Robins, Centerville, Perry, Macon County, Byron and Fort Valley, with more expected to join, Rodgers said.
Macon County Assistant Fire Chief Chad Yoder said he’s amazed at all the support his small department has received in the loss of Plank.
“You always hear about how the fire department’s a brotherhood and how ... we all come together. You don’t really see it until something like this happens,” he said.
Macon-Bibb firefighters also know what it means to lose one of their own. Lt. Randy Parker died in a February 2015 fire.
“Everybody stepped in for us, and now it’s our chance to step in for another department,” DeWitt said.
For more information about the fundraising efforts, contact Rodgers at firstname.lastname@example.org or (478)-960-5838.