When a courageous band of crusaders known as the Knights
of St. John, fought
the Saracens for possession of the holy land, they encountered
a new weapon unknown to European warriors. It was a simple,
but a horrible device of war, it wrought excruciating
pain and agonizing death upon the brave fighters for
the cross. The Saracen's weapon was, fire.
As the crusaders advanced on the walls of the city, they were struck by glass
bombs containing naphtha. When they became saturated with the highly flammable
liquid, the Saracens hurled a flaming torch into their midst. Hundreds of the
knights were burned alive; others risked their lives to save their brothers-in-arms
from dying painful, fiery deaths.
Thus, these men became our first firefighter and the first of a long list of courageous
firefighters. Their heroic efforts were recognized by fellow crusaders who awarded
each here a badge of honor - a cross similar to the one firefighter's wear today.
Since the Knights of St. John lived for close to four centuries on a little
island in the Mediterranean Sea named Malta, the cross came to be known as the
The Maltese Cross is your symbol of protection. It means that the firefighter
who wears this cross is willing to lay down his life for you just as the crusaders
sacrificed their lives for their fellow man so many years ago. The Maltese Cross
is a firefighter's badge of honor, signifying that he works in courage - a ladder
rung away from death.