Greitens' full speech at event honoring firefighters killed in the line of duty

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AUXVASSE - Gov. Eric Greitens spoke at the 16th annual Fire Fighters Memorial Service on Sunday.

The service was held at Auxvasse Elementary School because of inclement weather. It was supposed to be held at the Fire Fighters Memorial in Kingdom City.

The Fire Fighters Memorial Foundation of Missouri honored three firefighters who died in the line of duty: Jeffery Sanders, Wells Colton and Capt. John Kemper.

Sanders and Kemper died last year while on duty. Sanders died in Mayview and Kemper died one week after sustaining injuries while fighting a fire in St. Louis. Colton died in 1849 as a part of the St. Louis Volunteer Fire Department.

KOMU 8 was the only TV station at the event and Greitens agreed to an interview knowing the questions would only address the event.

"It's so important for us to be here to remember the fallen, to honor them and to let these families know how much we appreciate them," Greitens said.

Greitens compared having the people at the memorial looking up to him to a moment in his Navy Seal training.

"I remember thinking to myself, 'If I were alone now, I might quit,' but I looked to my left and saw there was someone counting on me. I looked to the right and saw there was something counting on me and I said, 'You know what? I can be strong for these guys for 10 more seconds,'" he said.

"And when I see all of these families and all of these firefighters and people across the state of Missouri who are counting on us, it inspires me. It inspires our team to continue to serve them and the people of Missouri," he said.

When asked if it was nice to get back to business after the past few months of controversy at the Capitol, Greitens called it a blessing.

"It is a tremendous blessing to be here with these beautiful families and let them know we're behind them and we're going to work for them everyday," he said.

State Fire Marshall Tim Bean said the memorial service was created by the Fire Fighters Association of Missouri.

"We felt the need in Missouri to recognize our firefighters who lost their lives in the line of duty and others that have served," he said.

Greitens declared Sunday to be Fire Service Memorial Day.

In a news release, he said, "We are forever indebted to the heroes who made the supreme sacrifice. We will never forget them, and will continue to stand and support their loved ones left behind."

The service consisted of a proclamation presented to the family members of the deceased firefighters. 

A bell ceremony recognized other firefighters who have died in the fire service.

Bean said these events are very solemn and are a time to remember those who serve the community.

"It is a time to reflect and not only reflect, but show appreciation and honor the men and women that have devoted their life to serve and protect their fellow man," he said.