Fifteen-year-old Clayton Holland has deep respect for members of the first responder community.

So deep, in fact, that he wanted to honor those Lebanon Countians who died in the line of duty as part of his Eagle Scout project.

Holland, the son of Brett and Jessica Holland of Cornwall, is searching archival records to verify information, gather content and write the stories of the men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice while on duty. 

“My dad actually mentioned, since he works with the business bureau, that they were already working on a memorial – for people who had died – at the (new) 911 call center,” said Clayton. “When I heard they were making the memorial and he had mentioned it might be a good Eagle Scout project, I was actually really interested because I’ve always respected those people.”

Bob Dowd, director of Lebanon County Emergency Management Services, said he was impressed by Clayton’s desire to do this project since he does not come from a family of first responders. Clayton is a member of Boy Scout Troop 415, Cornwall.

“Speaking on behalf of the county, it’s gratitude,” said Dowd. “We‘re thankful that he’s willing to be a part of this. The fact that he doesn’t come from a first-responder family and is willing to do this is really getting the community, outside of current public safety, engaged with these first responders who are currently serving and those who made the ultimate sacrifice. We really appreciate that.”

The stories that Clayton is compiling will be available via a QR code at the First Responder Memorial that will be constructed in the coming months at the county’s new 911 Center. The QR code will direct the user to read each individual’s story as posted on the Lebanon County Department of Emergency Services’ website.

“Their names will be on the memorial and next to it will be a QR code right beside it,” said Clayton. “There will be a link to the website – a website I design – and I will write up all of the bios and then place them on the website.” 

Dowd noted Clayton is also required to verify the information while conducting research. That research has included visiting the Lebanon City Police Department, working with Shane Keenan at the Lebanon Historical Society, and using and databases on the internet. 

“When we first sat down and talked about what this will look like, I handed him a list of names,” said Dowd about the project that began last April. “First of all, we have to give credit where credit is due. That original list of names came from the First Responder Memorial Committee, but I am not totally sure where they got all of those names.

“They (the committee) gave me the list and I handed it to Clayton and said, ‘Please go through and start verifying these,’” said Dowd. “And that’s where we’re at now. We’ve mostly verified them, but a few pieces of information are still missing.”

Dowd said he believes the committee compiled the list from “local knowledge,” but added their goal is to go beyond that. They want to ensure that anyone who should be honored isn’t missing from the First Responder Memorial at the 911 Center, which is slated to open in 2024. 

Clayton and Dowd asked LebTown to include the predominantly confirmed list of names and other details for the 27 people who died in the line of duty to compare against others who should be included but aren’t at this time. 

That list, which has been placed at the end of this story, is in chronological order, beginning with the passing of Police Chief Aaron McCord in 1890 to Lt. William Lebo, whose End of Watch came on March 31, 2022. Both officers served at the Lebanon City Police Department at the time of their deaths.

“We ask that anyone who has any corrections or additions, send an email to this address so that we can make sure it doesn’t get missed,” said Dowd. “I mean, we’re literally going to write this in stone and we don’t want anyone to be missed. That would be terrible.” 

Dowd emphasized the memorial will only contain the names of those who are classified as line-of-duty deaths.

“A line-of-duty death is somebody who died in the act or while performing a service while on duty,” said Dowd. “We have lots of firefighters or members who die at home who are members of fire companies and that does not constitute a line-of-duty death. I just want to clarify that. Please review the list, and if we’ve missed somebody, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.”

Clayton Holland, Cornwall, researches databases via his computer to compile a database of first responders who died while serving the citizens of Lebanon County. Holland is conducting research and writing short stories about each of the 27 men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice while on duty. (Provided photo)

Dowd said the county plans to keep the window open for the submission of missing names through the end of March. After that, the project will move forward towards completion starting in April.

“The next step is to basically write up an RFP (request for proposal) and put it out for bid,” said Dowd. “There are two monuments. The one is the names and the other is some text recognizing those who made the ultimate sacrifice and thanking those who are currently serving.” 

As far as a completion date for the county’s First Responder Memorial, Dowd said he’s not worried about when it is finished.

“I don’t want to rush this and wind up missing something,” said Dowd. “To me, the completion – anytime spring, really summer – is fine, it’s not urgent that we get it done (quickly). It’s important that we get it done correctly.”

Clayton, who attends a Lancaster County-based Christian school, said he’s incorporated the memorial tribute-writing assignment for each individual’s recognition into a term paper at his school.

“It can be any subject that we choose,” said Clayton about the annual writing assignment. “We have a seven- to nine-page project for that specific thing. We have to research a subject, so I was actually able to use this, the stories I wrote and that actually helped me get this project done faster around the same time that I had this school project.”

Clayton said he has at least one takeaway from the stories he’s compiled so far.

“One of the things I did pick up on is that it could be anywhere – from going into a house to make an arrest to one of them who was helping someone who was stuck in the middle of the road,” said Clayton. “Where they were killed, whether it was an accident or on purpose, and I thought it was interesting, just the difference in the situations.” 

This has given Clayton a deeper appreciation for those who unselfishly serve others and risk their lives on a daily basis.

“They never knew whether they were going to be killed in action or not, but they were still actively working as a policeman or firefighter to do their job bravely,” said Clayton. ”My point is they never knew what they were going into, but they did it without hesitation.”

Dowd added that is a distinguishing hallmark of first responders.

“What makes this different is that these individuals are doing it to help others,” he said. “These are difficult jobs, and they’re almost always underpaid. But they’re doing it because they want to help their community, they want to help people, and that’s their calling. They’re often putting their lives on the line, frequently doing things that are far more dangerous than the average person, just to help others. That’s a significant price to pay when you lose your life doing that.” 

That’s why Dowd said this particular project is especially important, and is an assignment worthy of an Eagle Scout designation.

“The goal of this project is to do a community service that benefits the entire community and it is supposed to be something significant, something big,” said Dowd. “I think this is pretty big, and I’m very excited.”

Clayton concurrs.

“My dad did suggest I paint some of the fire hydrants around Lebanon that needed repainting,” said Clayton. “While that was technically serving the community, I was looking for something a little more long-lasting. I really thought this was more significant and something I was more passionate about.”  

And one worthy of the Boy Scouts of America and the biggest achievement in this teenager’s life.

“I hope this better represents boy scouts, in general, and I am very proud to be working on this with Mr. Dowd,” said Clayton. “I do feel like this will be the most accomplished thing I’ve done in the first 15 years of my life so far. Personally, I mostly feel it will be a huge accomplishment and one that I’m grateful to have.”

Here is the list of first responders who have died in the line of duty, as provided by Dowd.

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James Mentzer is a freelance writer whose published works include the books Pennsylvania Manufacturing: Alive and Well; Bucks County: A Snapshot in Time; United States Merchant Marine Academy: In Service to the Nation 1943-2018; A Century of Excellence: Spring Brook Country Club 1921-2021; Lancaster...


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