PINEVILLE, NC (FOX 46 WJZY) - Richard Sheltra was a young volunteer firefighter who died in the line of duty in April of 2016.
"Richard had a really big heart," said North Carolina Department of Transportation Chief Engineer Tim Little.
And it's that heart that a community remembers and grieves for to this day.
"He chose a profession that protected his community," said Little. "And looked after his fellow man. You can't ask for anything better than that from a person."
The bridge on Polk Street in Pineville that sits over Little Sugar Creek now carries Richard Sheltra's name.
"Richard's name has come home to Pineville and will be permanently marking the sign of a bridge," said Richard's Father Michael Sheltra. "I cannot think of a better way to pay respects, honor and memorialize a young man."
"You never want anyone to forget about him," said Pineville Fire Chief Michael Gerin. "So this is a way our community will remember him."
Richard proudly sported badge number 73. He died in the line of duty from smoke inhalation on April 30, 2016. He was battling flames at a local golf store fire.
"The desire to serve was in his DNA," said Gerin. "He was born with it."
He was just 20 years old.
"We lost him at a young age," said Little. "But his impact will live on forever."
He served with diligence, dedication and honor and had just been named rookie of the year.
"Richard was grateful, respectful, and treated everyone he met with dignity and kindness," said Gerin. "Naming the bridge and putting the signs up and doing those things will allow his memory to live on outside the walls of the fire department."
Emotions ran high as his fellow firefighters and his family got to drive over his bridge for the first time.
"The best part is I'm driving my brother’s car today," said Richard's Sister Tyler Sheltra. "So I got to drive his car over the bridge for the first time and take him with me on that. It was amazing."
"It means a hell of a lot to the family and to the fire department," said Pineville Mayor Jack Edwards. "Which sometimes is not appreciated the way it should be for all they do."
Now, every car that drives the road will remember an American hero that gave his life serving others.
"There's no greater love than a firefighter who lays down his life," said Richard's Mom Linay Sheltra. "I'm very proud of my son and he did everything right."
"Every day that you drive over that bridge with Richard's name on it, do him justice and tell the story of what he meant to this community," Little said. "Truly-- let us never forget."