President Obama paid tribute Sunday to the "courage, fortitude, and strength" of firefighters who made the ultimate sacrifice, giving their lives in order to save people they have never met.
"We can never repay them fully," Obama said during the 34th annual National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service in Emmit sburg, Md.Offering prayers and condolences to the families of 87 firefighters who have died in recent months, Obama said the profession of firefighting holds a "special place" in the imaginations of Americans because of the risks involved.
"It's hard to think of a more selfless profession that firefighting," Obama told the crowd.The president, who unveiled a plaque with the names of the 87 fallen firefighters, said firefighters respond to emergencies by ignoring the natural instinct for self-preservation and running into danger while others race away.
"To literally walk through fire," he said. The White House said Obama wanted to speak at the ceremony on order to thank the nation's firefighters "for the extraordinary courage they display every day, particularly during these challenging times as communities across the Western United States combat the recent wildfires."