GOBLES, Mich. (WOOD) — A community in Van Buren County came together Friday to honor the life of a fallen firefighter.
In February, Lt. Ethan Quillen of the Paw Paw Fire Department was killed while on duty.
On Friday, his life was honored during the Gobles football game.
It was the school’s annual Tiger Tribute game. Each year, Gobles High School dedicates a night to first responders, active military members, veterans and fallen heroes.
“We’re playing for something much bigger than us tonight,” Greg Eichler, head varsity football coach and assistant principal for Gobles Public Schools, said.
Friends, family and community members packed into the Gobles football stadium to watch their high school team play.
But they weren’t the only ones watching the game: Along the sidelines, first responders from around the area were also in attendance.
“This is our Tiger Tribute football game, against Fennville this year. This is our second year that we’ve done it, kind of like this, where we invite all the military branches, local police and fire and veterans. And we have all kinds of cool things going on,” Eichler said. “We have fire trucks and police cars and SWAT vehicles, and we do a parade.”
Eichler told News 8 the message behind the Tiger Tribute game was the most important part.
“It’s bigger than Gobles,” he said. “It’s about our country and valuing those people that do what they do, for us to be able to play this game and those that sacrifice for us.”
Thomas Nickels, U.S. Navy operations recruiter in charge, described the event as “incredible.”
“Coach Eichler does a great job with just being able to reach out to all the service branches, as well as the first responders,” Nickels said. “And really just kind of give us the opportunity to show the community about what we do, how we do it. And just give us the opportunity to kind of shine.”
Before Friday’s game started, during the coin toss, Quillen was honored.
Quillen was a 28-year-old volunteer firefighter from Paw Paw. He was also a U.S. Marine, husband and father.
While on the job during an ice storm in February, Quillen was killed when a power line fell on him.
Quillen’s family was in attendance Friday.
“When I saw that story and saw what happened, I personally went over there and saw the procession come into Paw Paw,” Eichler said. “It’s really sad to see, but also made me really appreciate what those people do, and especially him. Doing it for free, and just doing it out of his love for, just, protecting his community and wanting to make sure that the people that he cares for and loves for stay safe, just really hit home.”
This is the second year of the Tiger Tribute game.