Sandra K Reabuck
A local man who was killed while serving as an Air Force firefighter in Japan last year was honored during the weekend by the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation at a memorial service in Maryland.
Senior Airman Derek Kozorosky, 22, was fatally injured Feb. 11, 2011, during a training exercise with other Air Force firefighters at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan.
He was helping with the training of newer firefighters at the base, the family was told.
Kozorosky was one of 85 American firefighters who died in the line of duty during 2011 and whose names were added to the fallen heroes honor roll at the memorial in Emmitsburg. He was the only military firefighter honored from 2011.
Sunday’s ceremony was moved to the nearby Mount St. Mary’s University because of inclement weather at the outdoor memorial. A luminary service was held Saturday night at the memorial. His mother, Lisa, who is Cambria County treasurer, his father, David, and his 15-year-old sister, Makayla, attended the weekend events.
“It was beautiful, a beautiful tribute to all the firefighters and what they do. Because of what they do, they are called fallen heroes,” Lisa Kozorosky said.
All of the 85 families were given firefighter escorts, with the Kozoroskys having a military one – five firefighters who served with their son in Japan, including his chief, Christopher Moore. Moore also served as an escort in returning the young firefighter’s body back to the United States after his death.
Derek Kozorosky, while not a firefighter while he was at home, ended up going to the Department of Defense fire school in San Angelo, Texas. Memorials for him also have been placed there as well as the Kadena Base, Lisa Kozorosky said.
A 2007 graduate of Bishop Carroll High School, Derek Kozorosky attended Mount Aloysius College for a year before joining the Air Force in November 2008.
“He loved being a firefighter. He hit the ground running (in going to that school). He loved the camaraderie of the guys, and he loved helping others.
“It (being a firefighter) fit his personality,” the proud mother said in an interview at the courthouse.
The family made an etching of his name from the plaque at the monument. They were given – as were other families – a rose and a U.S. flag.
Although some families left the rose on the firefighter’s name, Lisa Kozorosky said that she had decided to keep it.
Instead, “we left a penny there – you know the saying, ‘Pennies from heaven.’ We thought that was fitting,” she said.
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