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U.S. Honor Flag arrives for fallen firefighter

By Heather Hintze 6:44 PM March 13, 2014

The flag pays tribute to Senior Capt. Jeff Bayless, who died in a training exercise last week.

ANCHORAGE – The United States Honor Flag started as a tribute to fallen heroes after 9/11.

Thursday afternoon the flag made its way to Anchorage to honor the life of Senior Capt. Jeff Bayless, who died in an Anchorage Fire Department training exercise last week.

“Jeff was a very patriotic person and he was dedicated to the fire department,” said his sister Cynthia Starnes. “He was dedicated to his beliefs. He had very high standards. So the fact this flag is coming in for Jeff’s funeral, the only word that comes to my mind is amazing.”

Dozens of friends and colleagues lined the terminal at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport to salute the flag as it went by.

“That’s what we’re here for, supporting the family of Senior Captain Bayless and the family of Anchorage firefighters that are grieving the loss at this time,” said Brian Leigh, the Anchorage Fire Department’s Honor Guard Commander. “Seeing the show of support from all these other agencies, it’s just the best honor that could be given to the family and to us.”

Leigh said he and the other firefighters have been so busy planning Bayless’ memorial, it hasn’t really hit them that he’s gone.

“It is very surreal,” Leigh said. “I think it’s really going to hit a lot of people after this weekend’s events when we have time to settle down from all this planning and it’s really going to hit all of our members in the realization that he won’t be coming back.”

“The fact that Jeff died in the line of duty didn’t surprise anybody because that’s what he was about,” Starnes said. “The fact he was a firefighter didn’t surprise any of us. He had always told us that whatever he was going to do in life it was going to be helping people.”

A procession of fire trucks made its way from the airport to Evergreen Memorial Chapel where the Honor Flag was laid near his casket.

“It gives us a sense of comfort knowing that flag’s going to be with him,” Starnes said. “It also gives us a great deal of comfort knowing that the fire department is going to be with him 24-7 right now because he was their brother.”

A public memorial will be held Saturday, March 15 at 2 p.m. at the Egan Center.

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