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HISTORY OF THE MALTESE CROSS

The center focus of the badge of a Firefighter is the Maltese Cross. This symbol of protection, honor, and its history is several centuries old. When a courageous band of crusaders, known as the Knights of St. John, fought the Saracens (members of pre-Islamic people of the Syrian-Arabian desert) for possession of the holy land, they encountered a new weapon unknown to European fighters. It was a simple yet horrible device of war that wrought excruciating pain and agonizing death. The Saracens weapon of fire.

As the crusaders advanced on the walls of the city, they were bombarded with glass bombs containing naphtha (a colorless flammable liquid obtained from crude petroleum and used as a solvent, cleaning fluid and as a raw material for gasoline). Once saturated with the liquid, the Saracens threw flaming torches into the crusaders. Hundreds of knights were burned alive while others risked their lives in an effort to save their kinsmen from painful fiery deaths. Thus these men became the first Firemen and the first of a long line of Firefighters. Their heroic efforts were recognized by fellow crusaders who awarded each other with a badge of honor similar to the cross Firefighters wear today.

Since the Knights of St. John lived nearly four centuries on the island of Malta, in the Mediterranean Sea, the cross came to be known as the Maltese Cross. The Maltese Cross is a Firefighter's symbol of protection. It symbolizes that the Firefighter that wears the cross is willing to lay down his life for a fellow man as did the crusaders for their comrades so many years ago. The Maltese Cross is a Firefighter's badge of honor, signifying that he is courageous, and ringdown away from death.

Barry Stallard

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