Firefighter’s funeral today
by Bill Kimber
Dec 20, 2013 | 3583 views |  0 comments | 40 40 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bob Crisp/The Daily Home
Talladega police and fire department personnel salute as the funeral procession for firefighter Jeff Little passes through the city.
Bob Crisp/The Daily Home

Talladega police and fire department personnel salute as the funeral procession for firefighter Jeff Little passes through the city.
Thousands of people across two states paused Thursday to pay their respects to fallen firefighter Jeff Little as his funeral procession traveled from Waycross, Ga., to his hometown of Sylacauga.

Little, a lieutenant at the Waycross Fire Department, died early Sunday of injuries suffered fighting a house fire. Two men have been charged with arson and homicide in the case.

His funeral is today at 1 p.m. at Sylacauga First Assembly of God, with a full honors firefighter service. He will be buried in Bluff Springs Cemetery on County Line Road.

The Sylacauga native worked for 17 years for the Childersburg Fire Department and for 12 years at the Waycross Fire Department.

After a funeral in Waycross on Wednesday, Little’s funeral procession left that city at 9 a.m. local time Thursday for the trip to Sylacauga. The hearse was escorted by Georgia State Patrol, police cars and fire apparatus from Waycross and other fire departments.

“Sometimes you’ll get bored when you’re on a long road trip, but there was no way to get bored today,” said Childersburg Fire Department Capt. Tim Shelnutt, who had attended the funeral in Waycross. “There were fire apparatus and firefighters at every overpass. A lot of people wore their Class A uniforms. They took a lot of time to get dressed for a 30-second salute.”

At Macon, Ga., Oxford and Talladega, fire departments had created flag-draped arches with ladder trucks for the funeral procession to travel through, Shelnutt said.

Little’s parents, Paul and Mary Little of Sylacauga, joined the procession in Talladega, and were overwhelmed by the outpouring of love they witnessed for their son.

“They say they can’t believe people did all this for Jeff,” said Little’s brother, Andy Little. “They’re in a little bit of disbelief about it.”

Andy Little attended the funeral Wednesday in Waycross and returned to Sylacauga Wednesday night. He and a group of his relatives and friends gathered in downtown Childersburg Thursday afternoon, where hundreds of people, including firefighters from Westover, Hollins and other areas, waved flags as the procession rode slowly past.

“Pure pride was what I felt. To observe all those fire trucks and police cars and emergency vehicles pass by just instilled a lot more pride in me than I already felt. I didn’t know I could be any prouder,” he said.

With two funerals in two states, Andy Little said he hasn’t had a chance to be alone and reflect on his brother’s death, and when the whirlwind of activities is over, he knows he has some grieving to do.

“It’s rough during a storm, but after the wind stops, that’s when you pick up the pieces,” he said.

Childersburg fire Capt. Jeff Monroe, who worked alongside Little for 17 years, helped coordinate the procession and funeral rites.

“It’s been a long day and there are a lot of moving parts, making sure everything is polished and ready the best we can do,” Monroe said.

“To make this all happen today, there are probably over 1,000 people involved. From people standing at attention at overpasses to driving trucks to making phone calls to doing whatever we had to do to bring Jeff home, it’s a big undertaking. I’m just glad to have been a part of it.

“A lot of the people in that crowd today were affected by Jeff’s work in Childersburg. There’s no doubt in my mind that there were people in that crowd who Jeff took care of as an EMT and as a firefighter. That’s the nature of doing this job in a small town. You live and work around the people you serve. They were there out of respect for him.”

When it arrived at the church, Little’s procession included fire apparatus from Waycross, Oxford, Winterboro, Renfroe, Ironaton, County Line, Sycamore and Oak Grove fire departments, as well as Alabama State Troopers and Alabama Marine Police.

His body was removed from the hearse by a firefighter honor guard, and the U.S. Honor Flag was transferred from the Waycross Police Department to the Sylacauga Police Department in a ceremony.

The flag, pulled from the rubble of the World Trade Center after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, is flown in support of heroes as a symbol of their sacrifice and service.