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Readers React to Cost, Timing of Firefighter's Freeway Funeral Procession

Credit Joe Greeninger
Credit Joe Greeninger
Originally posted January 24, 2014 at 04:25 PM. Information added clarifying costs associated with the procession.

After firefighters held a freeway funeral procession Wednesday for Greg Hennessey, who recently died of a heart attack at a Rancho Santa Margarita fire station, Patch readers had mixed reactions.

Some readers asked whether the procession was handled properly. Readers also brought up questions about the cost of the procession, which involved several Orange County Fire Authority personnel and department vehicles.

The procession was carried out by the Honor Guard, a group of 25 volunteers organized by the charitable Orange County Firefighters Benevolent Association, OCFA spokesman Steve Concialdi said.

"It doesn't cost anything," he said. "These guys are on their own time. They are off-duty."

He said the firefighters saluting the procession from bridges were on duty, adding that they were on-call and available for emergencies at the same time.

Some questioned whether the procession, which was carried out during rush hour, could have been held at a time less disruptive to the flow of freeway traffic.

Concialdi acknowledged that the procession impacted traffic, but said such processions are standard procedure for fallen firefighters and police officers.

"Every time in the state of California a firefighter or police officer is killed in the line of duty, we escort them," he said. "That's standard. That's a universal thing that's showing honor."

Concialdi added that Hennessey's death should remind the public that the hazards attached to emergency work include extreme stress.

"We don't just die in burning buildings," he said. "Forty-five percent of firefighters that die in the line of duty die of a cardiac event. It just shows how stressful the job is. We're there 24/7, 365 days a year. We work 24-hour shifts and we're up multiple times a night."

Here is a selection of reader reactions to the memorial:
  • Mike: Firefighters are great, but did they have to do this during morning rush hour[?] Besides the 3 fender benders, thousands of people [were] late due to this untimely event. Many professions are honorable, and it is unfortunate when a husband, and father dies, but to disrupt the economic engine of orange county, and the damage to the 6 vehicles due to this honoring of their brother, is unfortunate as well.
  • Kuntheary Tiep: I was deeply moved by the brotherhood of our [firefighters] and it brought me to tears while I drove to work. We are so lucky to live in America, and so many of us unfortunately don't realize that. Coming from a country where citizens had no rights, I felt so proud and honored to be in the presence of such love, compassion and honor to our fallen brothers.
  • Richard: I certainly hope that the time spent on the bridge in a tribute to a co-worker was personal time. Also, the picture shows 3 fire engines on the bridge. Is the use of "company" vehicles permitted for non-official use? This firefighter, may he RIP, passed away of causes unrelated to public service. Many others who serve and protect the public and come to harm while doing so do not get this treatment.
  • Pete: My uncle died on Monday and I was at O'Connor Mortuary on Tuesday taking care of his arrangements when I witnessed the vigil that the firefighters attend to when one of their own falls. One firefighter in full dress uniform standing outside of the room where his co-worker lies, standing at attention and looking straight ahead with no distraction. In essence guarding the body. Pretty darn impressive and if we had more honor and responsibility like this in our country, we would be better off.
  • Eileen: I will always and I say always expect that our public servants are honored when untimely things like this happen. I thank God everyday for them[.] A firefighter saved my [daughter's] life when she went into cardiac arrest. His only concern was to help my child. So if it did cost some of our [tax] dollars it was worth it.
  • C M: I think that public servants deserve every possible respect and I'm not worried whether the firefighters were on the clock or not. If there was an emergency I have every confidence that they would have packed up and responded to that call without delay. I do, however, have to agree with Mike. The timing could have been better arranged.
A public memorial for Hennessey is scheduled for Tuesday, March 4 at 10 a.m. inside Saddleback Church in Lake Forest
Shirley Dicktor January 24, 2014 at 08:03 PM
Some would complain if they were going to be hung with a "new rope". I witnessed the color guard ceremony out of the hospital on Monday, truly very moving, it was as Pete stated & even more...very profound to say the least. Personally the complainers would complain if the deceased were their family member & the situation being the same.
Mike January 24, 2014 at 11:42 PM
I don't think it's that unreasonable to question our government, and how they conduct their business. I don't think it's complaining to question whether or not the transportation of Mr. Hennessey's body had to take place during rush hour, especially in light that it was not a funeral procession, a more appropriate venue for such honors, in my opinion. I would have liked for Mr. Sheldon to press the question that this did not cost the taxpayer a cent, when I estimate upwards of 20 government engines, hook and ladders, as well as other vehicles were involved. I would expect that several hundred dollars at a min. in fuel cost alone where spent. What was the coverage for emergency calls during that time. What about the fact that if an emergency vehicle was required to utilize the main corridor for Orange county was impacted by such an event, and not organically by accident of fate. I would also like to know when the last time engines were stationed on overpasses in the past for the movement of a body, and not an actual procession. I can only recall at the death of President Regan. I know this will draw out scathing retorts from the firefighter culture, and it is not my intention to inflame them, they deserve to be honored, especially when they die in the line of duty, a cardiac arrest is not in the line of duty, I take question with that. It is a major cause of death, as many professions are stressful, and other professions inherently more dangerous. http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/hey_wait_a_minute/2003/10/smoke_and_mirrors.html
Michelle January 25, 2014 at 11:34 AM
I have held my tongue long enough...MIKE you need to stop talking and just be quiet. Anyone ever teach you "if you don't have anything nice to say then don't say anything?"....apparently not. Didn't think anyone would say negative things about what was done for a man who lost his life. But OH NO I was wrong and forgot that their are such ignorant people out there who have nothing better to do then worry their pretty little minds about the DUMBEST things! ( by that I mean your tax dollars and this would have been done at a better time to convenience you) Bottom line a man lost his life and left behind a family and the fire fighters were honoring him. I recommend for MIKE to step away from all electronic advises and get in touch with his emotions for others. You're welcome in advance for my two sense. -xoxo
PTB January 25, 2014 at 12:18 PM
OMG. You were held up going somewhere. God forbid we should honor someone who put his life on the line every day for us. I'm so saddened by the tone in some of these statements. This man deserves honor and respect by all of us and especially his fellow fire fighters. Let it be and just remember that they'll be there for you when you need it, no matter what. Thank you to those who unselfishly serve everyone
Mike Lucero January 25, 2014 at 12:51 PM
Last I recall stress is a huge factor in a cardiac event. Years of sleepless nights, 1/3 of his life or more spent at work not including classes and volunteer time or overtime, countless time away from his family on holiday events, birthdays, special occasions. Just to name a few. Just because he did not pass away in a burning building does not take away the fact that he was ready willing and able ON DUTY to handle any task that a firefighter is called to do. So if holding this honorable man in high respect, that he would put others lives ahead of his own and precious time apart from his family. Then proceed with this procession with honoring him, showing respect, continue to lay out that life long fire department tradition of honor, respect, commitment and selflessness that we need more of in America now more than ever. May your body rest in peace Gregg and may your family be surrounded by love and comfort they so very much need. ~ MPL
Terry Malfavon January 25, 2014 at 01:32 PM
OMG...this angers me so much that people would complain...Firefighter,EMT,Police and Paramedics are no less then our men in the Military...They deserve our respect and gratitude!
Lawrence (Larry) McCook January 25, 2014 at 02:02 PM
It is a wonderful tradition to honor to honor fallen Firefighters, Military and Law Enforcement in this manner. They are ready to lay their lives on the line for each of us every day! May God Bless his family and grant them strength in this time of sorrow.
Melissa Ortiz January 25, 2014 at 03:09 PM
I am so angered by the fact people are actually complaining about this. Not just angered but sad, seriously. This man every single long shift puts his life out there, in many ways. Burning buildings, fast driving to get to the calls, loss of sleep, stress in general , and the ultimate sacrifice his health. Just because it was a heart attack does not mean it was not career related. And as for planning better??? Really??? So it caused a little more traffic ...so what in Orange County it is expected. I am so upset people really are questioning this. I as will my entire family who includes to firefighters/paramedics, will be forever grateful to OCFA. My son just a little over a year ago was critically burned 48% of his body, it was thanks to one of the OC stations he received the best care he could have. Their quick response , knowledge and quick thinking got my son where he is today. We almost lost him a few times. But he survived and has had a very tough road . Again getting him through this ordeal the firemen and women involved have been nothing but Amazing. The support we receive and I am referring to emotional, has been outstanding. My son still after all he went through still wants to become a firefighter. My heart goes out to the family of this fallen firefighter. God bless you as well as the OCFA family. Please know the services you provide help families on so many levels. For those of you who are worried as to the traffic, timing, and cost SHAME on you.
Barbara January 25, 2014 at 03:36 PM
To honor a fallen firefighter is something we should do without hesitation, with respect and with a heavy heart. Firefighter Hennessey saved countless lives during his time with the OCFA. To give up 10 minutes of extra driving on your morning commute should be insignificant. Did someone REALLY complain about that? Doing a freeway salute on or off duty should be a no-brainer. If a call came out and those firefighters were on duty, they would have packed it up and taken off in a hot second. They cover and protect our butts every single day, risking their own without thought. If you need a firefighter, or police officer, ON OR OFF DUTY, they would no doubt jump to your aid -- without regard to whether they might be late arriving to another commitment. People who write that this gesture for a fallen HERO is wrong and a waste of taxpayer time and money are pathetic. Do you think that generations past would have complained about this? Never. They probably would have stopped traffic altogether, gotten out of their cars, and saluted as the OCFA vehicles passed. Good God, people, get back your priorities and country pride! And thank those who sacrifice every day for Y-O-U. You complain about their high salaries. No, they don't make enough for their getting spit on, attacked, going into burning or collapsed buildings, jumping into a raging river to rescue some dope who thought they could make it across, being shot at, having to work holidays, missing their childrens' "never-get-those-back" moments. Yup, they signed up for this job. And thank God that they stepped up. I don't know that I'd want to have to rely on the guy who was put out by being a few minutes late to work to help take care of any kind of emergency or medical aid. He'd no doubt walk away.
Janet Boursier January 25, 2014 at 06:09 PM
Dear Mike, I believe the last procession was with the death of Firefighter/Paramedic Jimmy Owen. The same processional honors were given to the fallen firefighters at Yarnell. The cost of these honors pale in comparison to the cost to these men, who gave their lives. Your inconvenience for a few minutes of time in traffic pale in comparison to the inconveniences that occur daily in the normal duties of a firefighter. Frankly, I don't think anyone cares about or shares your concerns. But thanks for banding the community together even more tightly in response to your ungrateful and insensitive remarks.
greylox January 25, 2014 at 08:09 PM
Dear Mike, Take your tea bags and whine elsewhere.
Richard Oakley January 25, 2014 at 08:41 PM
For those of you who questioned the costs or the timing of this honor procession . . . The NEXT time you need help from the OCFA, call one of the other posters who questioned the costs or the timing of the honor procession for Greg. You have to be kidding me . . . I would PAY the guys who did this AND do it during MAXIMUM rush hour, just to make sure people like you know what price some of these folks pay!
Mike January 26, 2014 at 12:37 AM
Mike, you are a pathetic piece of work!!
imcjl January 26, 2014 at 10:57 AM
I believe in God's eyes, no one life is more precious than another as we are all his children. But even says God he will reward those of his children who have sacrificed their lives for others. I believe this child of God will be richly rewarded for how he used his time, talent and treasures here on earth. His procession is of an honorable tradition so the very citizens he helped SERVE and protect could thank and salute this fallen servant and openly mourn with his family and friends. These are humbling precious moments that should never go away as it will only contribute to the coarsening and desensitizing of this society. Save the accounting scrutiny for something that is actually a waste of taxpayer money as this does not fall into that category. Prayers to his family and friends for their loss and that God's grace and healing love will cover you in your grieving.
Joe Promedio January 27, 2014 at 04:04 AM
I am sickened that there is someone out there that could complain about a funeral procession for a firefighter. These are the guys who would not hesitate to run into a burning building to save the life of any of us, even the ungrateful.

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