Reporter: Parker Slaybaugh
Lynchburg, VA - Saturday morning family, friends, and fellow first responders gathered at Franklin Heights Baptist Church in Rocky Mount to remember Lieutenant John Echternach Jr.
He is the Boons Mill Volunteer Firefighter who died from injuries suffered when a tree fell on him while saving another person during last week's wind storm.
Around 700 people came out to remember a man who they say always put others first. The service lasted about 90 minutes and focused around three main points; John's Life, Jesus, and the journey of moving forward.
"Let us shed tears of joy, and celebrate the life of John, and the legacy he leaves behind, our loss is heaven's gain," said Debbie Echternach, John's Wife.
Echternach was a husband, a father of two, and a hero to many. He thrived on helping people in need, and lived by a passage from the Bible.
"But let us remember the words of Jesus, greater love has no one than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends," said Rev. Paul Stutzman, the Pastor at Boones Mill Christian Church.
Echternach laid down his life while saving another. He had been with the Boons Mill Volunteer Fire and EMS Station since 2003. He was known to his colleague's as Lieutenant Seven.
"Lieutenant Seven to the scene, you could count on hearing Lieutenant Seven to the scene on the radio, and it actually feels strange when you don't hear it anymore," said Stan Mastrangelo, a colleague of Echternach's.
Even in death Echternach's wife says he is still saving lives.
"Our family finds peace in knowing that John gave up his earthly life as he always lived it, giving to others, and through organ donation his legacy lives on," said his wife.
Echternach's ashes were placed in a fire truck for one final ride, as dozens of emergency vehicles followed, paying tribute to their fallen brother.
The processional drove past Boons Mill Christian Church, where a private committal service will take place on Sunday.
Gifts in Echternach's honor may be made to:
Boones Mill Volunteer Fire Department
P.O. Box 61
Boones Mill, VA 24065
Boones Mill Christian Church
7950 Grassy Hill Rd.
Boones Mill, VA 24065