May 3, 2019 marked the 17th anniversary of the deaths of the St. Louis Fire Department’s Capt. Derek Martin and Capt. Robert Morrison. Both brave men lost their lives battling the same fire and leaving behind their spouses and children. Today their children have reached adulthood and are embarking on new journeys.

Capt. Derek Martin is survived by his wife, Angela, and three children, Denzel, Jordan and Kayla all of whom are now young adults with thriving careers. Angela shares her pride in her children’s accomplishments, “Watching my children grow and flourish has been the greatest joy of my life. After they lost their dad my sole purpose was to make sure they would be okay, finish school and have continued, good relationships with others”. The legacy of Capt. Martin lives on through his children who continue to honor their father with their accomplishments.

Denzel Martin is entering his fourth year working with the Pittsburgh Steelers. This season, Denzel is a    Coaching Assistant for the defense working closely with the linebackers. Denzel has inherited his father’s character and strives to uphold the values his father displayed. “I honor my father every day in the way I attack each day. I try to take advantage of the day while also treating people with the utmost respect like my father would. Working hard and treating people right were very important to him and our family.”

Jordan Martin has had a nonstop year! Jordan married in May 2018. Following the nuptials, Jordan and his wife, Shaterra, moved from Houston, Texas, where he served as Defensive Intern at the University of Houston, to Oklahoma, where he was a Recruiting Analyst at Oklahoma State. This past January, Jordan accepted a position with the Detroit Lions as a Scouting Assistant. Jordan and Shaterra are expecting their first child in late October.

Maintaining a strong work ethic, staying humble, and putting family first are all values that Jordan has acquired from both of his parents. “I honor and remember my father by my work ethic, dedication to my family and my integrity. Giving to others in any facet I can is a value that both my parents taught us and is something that is truly important to our family. Setting goals and doing everything I can to attain them; never giving up and finishing what I start. Never forgetting where I came from, as well as who I represent when I leave home each day. Always protecting the family first. Earning respect as a man by doing everything I say I will do. My father was the ultimate representation of a man to me, and I strive to be that daily. Using these values he taught my family and me, we continue to keep his legacy alive.”

Kayla Martin has just completed her second year at Syracuse University where she is working toward a degree in communications and rhetorical studies. Her summer plans include an internship with KTVI Fox 2 News. In addition to her studies, Kayla is the director of the Derek D. Martin Food Drive.  The Derek D. Martin Food Drive was renamed in honor of Capt. Martin because of his devotion and hard work he contributed to the food drive during his life. As the director, Kayla is responsible for organizing events, coordinating with schools, participating in the food drive and ensuring that the day runs smoothly. “Being the director of the Derek D. Martin Food Drive has made me very aware of the resources needed to effectively serve the community. It is very important to me that we work hand in hand with the community to ensure that we are meeting all their needs.”

The dedication to the food drive and giving back is how Kayla chooses to keep the generous spirit of her father alive. “Every day I wear my father’s cross necklace around my neck. I am constantly reminded of him in everything I do. Every time I give back to the community, I do it with him in mind. He was always so giving, and I cannot think of a better way to honor him and his legacy than volunteering, donating and giving back every chance that I get.”

The Martin Family is a testament of hope to families that have lost a loved one in the line of duty. Angela Martin reflects on life immediately following the death of her husband and how there are times that are still challenging, “After the tragedy of Derek being killed, one of the major obstacles was dealing with his absence from our daily lives. Psychologically this was extremely difficult, and I wasn’t sure any of us could make or wanted to make it through each day. Slowly but surely, we began to pick up the pieces of our unwanted new life without Derek. As the years have gone by, some aspects have gotten better while others remain difficult. There is never a way to replace a dad”.

Replacing a loved one is impossible and removing all the sadness may never happen, but BackStoppers was there to lift some burdens that were placed on the Martin Family. “BackStoppers was able to assist our family financially from day one. Without BackStoppers, it would have been more difficult for my kids to complete private school and go on to complete their bachelor’s and master’s degrees. BackStoppers was also able to assist with medical needs when necessary. Grief counseling was crucial for our family to try and deal with the loss of Derek. As grief goes through many stages there are many times when this therapy is still necessary, and BackStoppers is always there to assist our family.”

“BackStoppers means so much to me and my family. I was young when my father passed away, and I remember BackStoppers being there to help us as soon as possible. They are always there for you. I will always appreciate BackStoppers for what they did and continue to do for my family.” – Denzel Martin

“BackStoppers means everything to me. College would have been tough without their help. I can never forget the financial grounding BackStoppers provided for my family. BackStoppers will always be family to me.” – Jordan Martin

“BackStoppers is committed to supporting our family every day. They are always there when we need them, and we wouldn’t be where we are now without them. BackStoppers was our calm in the middle of the storm.” – Kayla Martin

Capt. Robert Morrison was a husband and a father to two children. His wife, Laura, shares where her kids are today. Capt. Morrison left behind a daughter and a son, Matthew and Megan; both are now young adults beginning new families of their own.  The Morrisons are active in their community and continue to pay homage to their fallen hero. Laura’s pride for her family is something that cannot be questioned, “I am so proud of my children and who they have become. They both serve others just as their father did. It brings tears to my eyes knowing how proud of them he would be. He would also love his grandchildren as much as I do. I am so happy that they found a career they love, and I pray God keeps them safe everyday”.

Megan Morrison carries on her father’s legacy by helping others in their time of need, she became a nurse seven months ago. She has also successfully completed a master’s degree in business. This October, she will marry her fiancé, Brad, a firefighter she met at the 2015 Budweiser Guns ‘N Hoses.

Matthew Morrison graduated from St. Louis University with a bachelor’s degree in meteorology. He decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and enter a career in firefighting. Matthew has served with the Monarch Fire Protection District for nearly three years. He is married and has two young daughters.

Megan and Matthew organize a memorial golf tournament that honors their father and Capt. Martin. This year is the 15th Annual Derek D. Martin and Robert B. Morrison Memorial Golf Tournament benefiting BackStoppers. Megan shares the origins of the tournament and why it is important to her family, “My family started the golf tournament to honor my dad and the fireman that lost his life the same night, Capt. Derek Martin. We wanted to honor my dad with something he loved to do, which was golfing. We also wanted the proceeds to go to an organization that has done so much for our family. The community has never stopped honoring my dad. We have golfers that have played in every tournament since my dad has been gone as well as golfers that never knew him. I could not be more proud and thankful that there are so many people helping us keep his memory alive, and that my dad was able to impact so many lives in his short 38 years”.  The tournament has raised over $50,000 for BackStoppers since its inception.

Laura Morrison is also very passionate about giving back to first responders. She opened The Firehouse Bar and Grill to honor her husband and recognize all firefighters. Giving to BackStoppers and raising awareness of the mission hits a personal note for Laura, “BackStoppers has helped my children and me so much. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have been able to spend quality time with Megan and Matthew while they were growing up. I feel the time I was able to spend with them helped us grow closer as a family”.

The Morrison Family is a strong family unit, and their values and roots run deep. The legacy of Capt. Morrison lives on in each family member, and they have proven to be better together. “We decided a few years ago to build on a piece of property together. By the end of the summer all three of our families will be moved into our own houses just a stone throw away from each other. The street we will live on will be named Robbies’ Run as a way for us to honor Rob and have his memory live on”, Laura shares.

“It breaks my heart when I hear of another police officer or firefighter that won’t be coming home to their families. I know BackStoppers will be there immediately to help them. It is a big relief to have someone be a shoulder to cry on as well as lean on in a time of such sorrow.” – Laura Morrison

“I cannot think of a better organization than BackStoppers. Coming from a long line of first responders, nothing can comfort you more than knowing you will have such a compassionate and loving organization behind you if something were to happen. My family received so much support from BackStoppers after my dad died in the line of duty. They provided us with financial support, allowing my mom to stay home with my brother and me while we navigated a new scary life without my dad. What people may not see is the emotional support BackStoppers provides. They have been and still are here for my family, and always asking how we are doing. The most impactful thing BackStoppers has provided me with is assisting with tuition expenses to achieve my dream of becoming a nurse.” – Megan Morrison