TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV)– Over two years after his death, Terre Haute firefighter John Schoffstall was honored by the International Association of Firefighters, having his name added to their memorial for those who died in the line of duty in Colorado Springs. 

John’s wife Jennifer, and their two kids were on hand, as were a number of firefighters who worked alongside John and Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett. The ceremony took place in September, after being delayed two years due to the pandemic.

Jennifer said the entire weekend was emotional for her. She spent time sharing memories with those who were closest with John, and also connecting with families who have been through similar tragedies. 

She said she has formed a bond with some of the families she’s met at support groups and similar memorials.

Jennifer and her family at the memorial in Colorado Springs, CO.

“Meeting them, it’s an emotion you can’t explain when you’re back together with people who have been through the same events you’ve been,  and have experienced the same memorials you’ve been, and all the camaraderie we have,” she said. “We jokingly say welcome to the club no one wanted to be a part of.:

 She said some of the most emotional moments were watching the Pipes and Drums band perform, and then hearing John’s name called among about 500 other firefighters who died in 2019 or 2020. 

Terre Haute Fire Chief Bill Berry was on the trip, and said the most important part was honoring John and being there for his family.

“We were out there to support him, and support his family. Support Jennifer, Jake, and Jaidyn, they’re always going to be a part of our Terre Haute Fire Department family, and just being with them when he was honored at the memorial was just a remarkable thing,” he said.

John’s name on the memorial.

Jennifer said seeing his name on the wall and receiving the flag was the hardest part, as it brought back memories of some of the toughest times they went through. In the end, the ceremony was something she said she’ll cherish forever.

“My kids and I all had this conversation on the flight home, ‘That was amazing.’ I can’t wait to go back,’” she said. “Dad has his moment, and now we’re ready to just be at peace, and continue to go back and support the families that are new to this.”

She added that she’s grateful for the support she’s continued to receive from those at THFD.

“These aren’t just firemen. They’re my family,” she said. “To have them there with us to experience it, and for them to be supporting from the day John went into the hospital, all the way to today, and going forward because it’s not going to end today, they are always going to be there for me, that’s what brotherhood of the fire service means.”