TRUMANN, AR (KAIT) - The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation honored 5 Arkansas firefighters who lost their lives.
One honored firefighter served here in Region 8.
Chief Ricky L. Winkles of the Trumann Fire Department lost his life on January 28, 2014 while responding to a fire.
That day the Trumann Fire Department lost not only a chief, but also a friend.
"He was kind of a family guy. We did not know him as Rick, or Chief Winkles it was just chief," Captain Revis Kemper said.
Kemper said Winkles was a working chief who led by example.
"He showed us what to do and he would get in there and do it with us, and that is really what set him apart from a lot of people," Kemper said.
The fire department had a rough year after losing Chief Winkles.
Two months after his death another firefighter lost his life, and shortly after that death they lost another member of the department.
"We lost essentially 50 percent of our full-time crew in a year's time, really 6 months' time," Kemper said.
With all the tragedy and a mentor gone, the department was struggling internally with all the loss.
"It's obvious he was the glue that held us together because when he passed away it kind of just started to fall apart. It is starting to get better now and you can tell the guys are starting to get closer, but it was tough for a long time," Kemper said.
Now that the department is starting to heal, their beloved chief got some national recognition.
The Fallen Firefighters Foundation honored Chief Winkles along with 86 other firefighters for their service and courage.
President Obama spoke at the ceremony and reminded people just how much these firefighters give to their communities.
"Our prayers are with their families, many of whom honor us with their presence today," Mr. Obama said. "You remember them as moms and dads, siblings and spouses, friends and neighbors. Today we remember them and solute them as the heroes that they were."
The crowd responded in applause when the president mentioned the main goal is to bring these heroes home safe each night.
"We must work to prevent fires and give firefighters the equipment and the support to get the job done and to come home safe. That is what we owe every one of you," said the president.
Region 8 News asked Kemper why Winkles was a wonderful chief and he said it was because he was humble.
"He was able to lead and be a mentor to everyone, but he didn't want to take credit for it," Kemper said.
The Trumann Fire Department made a memorial of their own for Winkles.
The chief's helmet and axes from his truck were turned into a tribute that now hangs in the department.
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