Since 1881, 194 Minnesota firefighters have died in the line of duty. For more than 20 years, a small memorial dedicated to these fallen heroes has stood in a tucked-away location near the baggage claim at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Now, firefighters have launched an initiative to create a larger, more accessible and interactive memorial on the grounds of the State Capitol to give families, friends, coworkers and community members a permanent location to pay tribute to these men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice. The Minnesota Fire Service Foundation is working to raise $600,000 by Dec. 31, 2011, in order to complete the memorial by National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend in October 2012.

This memorial, rich with symbolism, will inspire current and future firefighters while recognizing the unique leadership role of the fire service in the broader community. The Fallen Firefighter Memorial will recognize not just the ultimate sacrifice made by a few but also the daily and nightly sacrifices made by every firefighter and every fire officer who answers the call to duty.

The fire service is responsible for every acre of the state, responding to any home, street, woodlot or cornfield where someone calls for help. While the State Capitol may seem far away from many firehouses, the memorial will be a central and hallowed place for the fire community, open to all who gather there in solidarity. Momentum for this memorial is remarkable: Firefighters, businesses and members of the public from every corner of the state are giving generously.

Tax-deductible contributions can be made at or by mail to Minnesota Fire Service Foundation, c/o Flagship Bank, 7525 Office Ridge Road, Eden Prairie, MN 55344-3644. For more information, visit the website mentioned above or


The writer is president of Ethical Leaders in Action, Minneapolis.