The patch on the left shoulder of every Jacksonville firefighter contains the shape of a Maltese Cross.
A badge of honor and protection, it is the international symbol of firefighters' willingness to risk their lives to save others, and its story dates back nearly 1,000 years.
The story begins during the Crusades. A group of 11th century knights known as the Knights of St. John were helping the Knights of the Crusades try to win back the holy land. During a battle for Jerusalem, the knights encountered a new, terrifying weapon. As the knights attacked the city walls, the Saracens threw glass bombs into their midst containing highly flammable liquids, followed by flaming torches at the drenched crusaders. While many knights suffered excruciating pain and agonizing deaths, others risked their lives to put out the fires and save their fellow knights from painful, fiery deaths.
The knights were recognized for their heroic efforts by their fellow crusaders, who decorated the eight-point cross the knights wore and awarded it to them as a badge of honor. Since the Knights of St. John lived for nearly four centuries on the Island of Malta in the Mediterranean Sea, the cross eventually became known as the Maltese Cross. The Maltese Cross is a firefighter's badge of honor, signifying that he or she works in courage, pride and honor - a ladder rung away from death.
Star of Life
The JFRD patch also includes the Star of Life, which is the symbol for Emergency Medical Services.
The star, a six-barred cross with a snake and staff in the middle, was created by the National
Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 1977.
The six points of the star represent aspects of the EMS system: detection; reporting; response; on-scene care; care in transit; and transfer to definitive care. The staff on the star represents medicine and healing.