He was a husband, father, grandfather, son and brother. An Army veteran, National Guardsman, Firefighter/Paramedic. These words describe what Steven Terry was, but not who he was.
Terry was found unresponsive at Fire Station 9 in Brooksville on the evening of October 16. He died at Bayfront Hospital Brooksville a short time later. He was 53 years old.
Steven Rae Terry was laid to rest on Tuesday, October 24 at Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell with full military honors. The date October 24 or 10-24 is significant as it is code used by first responders for “Assignment Complete.” Prior to internment, family, friends, law enforcement officers, Army and National Guard personnel and fellow firefighters from all over the state gathered at Northcliffe Baptist Church in Spring Hill to pay their respects to the man they knew and loved.
Ray Paquin served with Terry in the Hernando County Fire Department and knew him for over ten years.
“He was willing to help anybody. He was a great teacher and mentor and always took time with the new guys to explain what was going on. He was a 'down-to-earth' guy. When I was new to the fire department he took me under his wing. It was more on a personal level than just a business level. He had a passion for what he was doing, for teaching.”
A family friend described Terry's sense of humor and his love of comic books. He also loved music and played the guitar.
At the beginning of the funeral services, Joel Brown on the cello and Jacob Murray on guitar performed a heart-felt rendering of Amazing Grace. As mourners filed out of the church they played the hymn How Great Thou Art.
A visibly moved, Kevin Carroll, Hernando County Deputy Fire Chief, read a eulogy highlighting Terry's life and his achievements. He quoted something that Terry's widow, Jennie had told him last week. “I knew it would be bad to lose someone you loved, but to lose the one person who thought that you were everything is even worse.”
Carroll, addressing Mrs. Terry stated, “It was plainly obvious how much he loved you and how much he loved his family.”
Steven Terry dedicated his life to public service, not only as a Firefighter/Paramedic, but also as an Army NCO (Non-Commissioned Officer) and as a member of the Florida National Guard. As a National Guardsman he spent eighteen months in the Middle East. Recently he assisted in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma with the 1st Battalion-111th Regiment. Steve was also an active member of his church and served on the Board of Directors of a Bible camp.
Lt. Colonel Sean Boyette is commander of the 3rd Battalion-116th Field Artillery Regiment that Terry joined in 2002.
“I was fortunate to have deployed with him as my senior combat medic during 2005/2006 when we deployed in support of Iraqi Freedom. He became both a fellow soldier, combat buddy and friend. First Sergeant Terry was larger than life, energetic and passionate. He not only personified what it meant to be an NCO but helped coach and mentor many young soldiers and officers. He will be missed.”
Angela Turnbull, a close family friend spoke of Steve as a family man who would help his daughter, Olivia, sell Girl Scout cookies when she was a member of Ms. Turnbull's troop.
“Steve was right there to help, whether it was standing in front of Publix or Winn-Dixie and of course the fire station. Anybody that knew Steve knew that you could not tell him 'No.' He could sell cookies to the Queen of England!”
Ms. Turnbull related another incident her daughter told her about that exemplifies Steve's passionate nature.
“On the way back from Bible camp in Alabama, after volunteering all week long, one of the pit stops was at a guitar shop. He would spend a few hours in the store looking at the guitars and speaking to everyone he came in contact with.”
Hernando County Fire Chief, Scott Hechler, described the stack of condolence cards and letters and the numerous emails that he has received from firefighters all over the country.
Alluding to Terry's sense of humor, Hechler stated, “There are stories about his love for a country music song about a red Solo cup and he used to torment the firefighters by listening to it all the time, as well as challenging a young firefighter to a push-up competition.”
One of the traditional parts of a firefighter's funeral is the bagpipers dressed in their kilts. A group from Orlando led the procession into Northcliffe Baptist Church where thousands had gathered for this solemn occasion.
The memorial service concluded with the mournful tolling of the fire alarm bell. Then a member of Terry's firefighting company presented his widow with her husband's fire helmet.