Many firefighters, police officers and other emergency response personnel have been laid to rest at Crest Lawn Memorial Gardens. But now a special portion of the grounds has been reserved just for them.
The Garden of Valor was dedicated Thursday, June 21, at the Marriottsville cemetery. The plot of land is for the use of police officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians and other emergency responders, members of K-9 units, sheriffs and their families.
At the dedication ceremony, Howard County Police Chief Bill McMahon thanked Crest Lawn for the land, and said having such an option for a final resting place would mean a lot to public safety workers and their families.
It also will serve those who die in the line of duty.
"I hope we never have to use it (for that)," McMahon said. "But we appreciate it."
McMahon told the gathered crowd — made up of public safety employees and family members of those already interred — that the ceremony was a "dedication and celebration of the lives your loved ones lived."
Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services Chief Bill Goddard described the heat of the day, which crept up toward the mid-90s, as a "reflection of the warmth in our hearts for those buried here and those who have gone before us.
"They embody the best of our nation," Goddard said.
Goddard and McMahon both had a hand in the unveiling of the monuments at the center of the Garden of Valor: three benches with small statues — one for firefighters, one for police officers and one for emergency responders.
Fire and Rescue Services Chaplain Steve Stone gave the blessing for the garden, quoting from the Gospel of John: "There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends."
Kathleen Coffman, director of family services for Crest Lawn, said it was more than just laying down a life for a friend.
"They risk their lives, every day, for complete strangers," she said.
The garden and the monuments have been in "pre-development" for some time, said Betsy Gainy, family services coordinator at Crest Lawn. She said the project really got off the ground in the last couple of months.
"This is a way to honor those laid to rest here and in other cemeteries," Gainy said. "It's a place of honor for them. We can't thank them enough for what they do, every single day. It's humbling. It's amazing."