MERCED, Calif. - A fallen firefighter is honored where his career began. Clayton Ogden died of terminal cancer just last week. Hundreds gathered to remember the hero he was to the communities he served. Ogden's family says he was one cape short of being a superhero. Before fighting fires in Santa Cruz for 18 years, he started his career in Merced County. On Friday, Ogden was honored like a true super hero.
Bagpipes play throughout the streets of Merced, echoing honor and respect. Under the American flag, Valley fire trucks arrive but one truck from Santa Cruz carries the remains of Clayton Ogden. His family embraces the ashes of the man they love most, ready to lay him to rest.
"When I am called to duty, God, wherever flames may rage, give me strength to save a life, whatever be its age," read by Ogden's daughter Lily.
A firefighter's prayer, read to hundreds of people including dozens of firefighters, police officers and paramedics here to say goodbye. Brett Taylor, a retired Santa Cruz fire captain says it didn't take long for Ogden to prove himself.
"Matter of months and everybody knew he was a keeper, he was a good one and he was a guy I loved having on my crew," said Taylor.
Ogden became a hero in 2013 when he shielded a woman, caught in the middle of gunfire. The City of Santa Cruz rewarded him with the Medal of Valor.
"Didn't brag about it, didn't make a big hoorah about it. He just did it and that's what he was. He would just do his job," said Taylor.
Ogden would become Fireman of the Year in 2014. But three years later, doctors diagnosed him with terminal cancer. Friends say he stayed strong through the pain.
"He also said 'you know Dan, I'm going to be okay. If God doesn't heal me and I die with this cancer, I'm going to be okay,'" said Ogden's pastor, Dan Horst.
Ogden's uniform stands proudly in front of the next generation of firefighters.
"He will inspire every Santa Cruz firefighter that comes along in the future. He has out heart," said Taylor.
The Ogden family has established a memorial scholarship fund to benefit children of firefighters and students in the firefighter academy.