It's been nearly five years since the incident, but the pride in Charles Schneider's voice as he talks about his late son Jason is as strong as ever.
"He was the quintessential perfect son," Schneider said.
Maybe that sounds extreme, he added, but Jason never caused any problems growing up and was never in trouble. He always did the right thing, Schneider said.
"He was extremely responsible even at a very young age," he said, later adding, "People that were around him gravitated toward him because of those characteristics."
Simply put — Jason was an exceptionally loyal and extremely honest human being, Schneider said.
Jason Schneider, a 36-year-old tactical officer with the Baltimore County Police Department and father of two, was shot to death in August 2013 while trying to serve a warrant at a home in Catonsville.
Charles Schneider, along with his wife Karen, will make the trip from their Manchester home Friday to Timonium to honor Jason, and all those who have lost their lives in the line of duty. Friday is the 33rd annual Fallen Heroes Day ceremony, which is being held at 1 p.m. at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens, 200 East Padonia Road, according to a news release from the event organizers.
Each year, this event honors police and correctional officers, firefighters and emergency medical/rescue personnel who died in the line of duty during the past year, according to the release. It is the only statewide ceremony in the nation that brings together all segments of the public safety community.
The families of those who died will be presented Friday with a replica of the Fallen Heroes Memorial and a resolution from the Maryland General Assembly during the ceremony. In addition to honoring those whose lives were lost during the last year, one police officer and two firefighters who died in the line of duty before Fallen Heroes Day was established in 1986 will be remembered and their families will be presented with a governor's proclamation, according to the release.
Schneider, a former member of law enforcement himself for nearly three decades, used to occasionally make his way to the Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens. But since Jason's death, he hasn't missed a Fallen Heroes Day ceremony.
"We've attended every year since Jason passed away," he said.
He doesn't just go once a year, either. Schneider said he spends a lot of time there now, every few weeks to do maintenance on the grave markers — Jason's and those of others as well.
Schneider said he and Jason had a special bond because Jason was the eldest son, and paralleled the same life path. Out of high school, Jason entered the Marine Corps and later joined the Baltimore County Police Department. He went from patrol and worked his way up to the SWAT team, starting as a sniper before eventually becoming the lead entry on the team.
"When we lost Jason, it was a tremendous loss," he said.
It was especially hard, Schneider said, because of the violent manner of Jason's death.
Jason was the first one through the door, Schneider said, and chased a subject to the back of the house. As Jason tried to subdue the individual, who was armed, another armed individual stepped out of another room and shot Jason four times, Schneider said.
"However, he didn't quit. With the individual standing over top of him, he exchanged gunfire until he passed out and then shortly thereafter succumbed to his injuries," he said. "He was a fighter right up to the end."
Jason did exactly what he was trained to do, Schneider said. He engaged with the threat.
"He was a true hero," he added.
Events like Fallen Heroes Day can be helpful, Schneider said, because they give him and others an opportunity to remember loved ones and connect with others who have been in similar situations.
With this type of tragedy, he said, there's a deep feeling of isolation.
"To know that you're not alone in the experience is a tremendous help," Schneider said.
Even still, each year is hard.
But while it's emotionally trying for them to go to the Fallen Heroes ceremony, Schneider said it's something he and his wife need to do.
"It is a difficult experience and it comes up every year and it doesn't get any easier. But it's something that we feel we are compelled to do," he said. "If we didn't, who would?"
Walking in is always the hard part, Schneider said. But in talking with others, it's uplifting, he said.
"Life has to continue."
The 2018 Fallen Heroes Day ceremony will honor and remember:
— Master Firefighter Rescuer Charles "Rick" Gentilcore, Montgomery County Fire and Rescue, April 7, 2017
— Detective Sean M. Suiter, Baltimore Police Department, Nov. 16, 2017
— Deputy Chief Fire Marshal Sander B. Cohen, Office of the Maryland State Fire Marshal, Dec. 8, 2017
— Sergeant Mujahid A. Ramzziddin, Prince George's County Police Department, Feb. 21, 2018
— Assistant Fire Chief Christopher C. Pryor, LaVale Volunteer Fire Department, Feb. 25, 2018
This year, the ceremony will also pay tribute to two fallen Anne Arundel County firefighters: 16-year-old volunteer firefighter George Driggers Jr. and 21-year-old firefighter Patrick Bauer, who both died in 1976 battling a three-alarm Brooklyn Park rowhouse fire.
Also honored will be 24-year-old Officer Norman Buchman, a four-year veteran of the Baltimore City Police Department, who was shot and killed by an assailant in 1973 in the Northwest District.
If you go
What: 33rd annual Fallen Heroes Day ceremony
When: 1 p.m. Friday, May 4
Where: Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens, 200 E. Padonia Road, Timonium