Firefighter Jalen Smith let his life speak for him Saturday as family, friends and a brotherhood of firefighters celebrated a life cut short.
Rev. Richard McCowin maintained a celebratory theme about Smith’s life spent in service to others and built on principles of respect and compassion instilled by his family. It was Smith’s giving spirit that set him apart, McCowin said.
“Jalen didn’t just exist,” he said. “He was a servant to the people. His was a life lived with purpose.”
Smith had been with the department since September 2011 and was scheduled to attend Kilgore Fire Academy in 2013 to become a certified firefighter, Jackson Heights Fire Chief Terence Thompson said.
Thompson said Smith’s grandfather was a founding member of the Jackson Heights Volunteer Fire Department.
Jackson Heights firefighter Richmond Crumbton spent many hours with Smith at the department station doing routine daily work and emergency responses. On reflection, he said Smith had a way of making every moment special.
“He had a way of making you smile when you needed some joy and giving you peace when peace was needed,” he said. “He made every moment count.”
In October, Jackson Heights Fire Department officials unanimously voted Smith its 2012 Fireman of the Year.
“He was raised with values to take care of his fellow man, values of compassion and devotion,” he said. “That’s how he lived.”
Other fire officials remembered Smith as an up-and-coming fireman passionate about the job and destined for an extraordinary career.
Smith County Fire Marshal Jim Seaton presented Smith’s mother the Medal of Valor, the highest distinction for firefighters.
Outpourings of support and sympathy have come from as far away as New Zealand, and Canadian firefighters stood as honor guard as Smith’s casket lay in wait.
A long procession of cars and fire department vehicles traveled down Fifth Street/ Texas Highway 64 east through Chapel Hill and the Arp area to the Ashbury Cemetery in Overton.
During Smith’s eulogy, McCowin again touched on the importance of serving others and the value of living a giving life. He said everyone knows, from neighbors to fellow firemen and women who worked with him daily, that Smith was a good man. He told his mother and grandparents they should be thankful and proud they raised a young man the world could use more of.
“Jalen’s work is speaking for him,” he said. “Just look around. Just look around.”