U.S. Vice President Joe Biden says the 19 Arizona firefighters killed June 30 in a wildfire were men of "uncommon valor" who died trying to save a town.
Biden led a delegation of federal and state leaders Tuesday at a memorial service in a packed 6,000-seat arena in Prescott Valley, Arizona. He called the highly trained young firemen who died in a wind-swept inferno "some of the most disciplined and tenacious" men in the world.
Thousands of firefighters and public safety personnel from across the country were in attendance, along with Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and the state's U.S. congressional delegation.
Brewer eulogized the victims, calling each one a son of the state. She also praised people from across the country for their outpouring of support, and said it remains the duty of all Americans to help and protect the victims' families.
Precise circumstances of the deaths remain under investigation.
But authorities say the men - most of them in their 20s - apparently became trapped in a matter of seconds as a burst of gale-force winds shifted, pushing flames in their direction before they could take cover.
The tragedy marked the greatest loss of life from a U.S. wildfire in 80 years, and the highest number of firefighters killed in action since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City.
A man with The Red Cross holds his hat over his heart as he attends a memorial for the Prescott Fire Department's Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshots Crew in Prescott Valley, Arizona July 9, 2013.
Vice President Joe Biden rubs his eyes during the "Our Fallen Brothers" memorial service for the 19 fallen firefighters at Tim's Toyota Center in Prescott Valley, Arizona, July 9, 2013.
People watch a memorial service for the fallen members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots on a big screen outside the memorial arena, in Prescott Valley, Arizona, July 9, 2013.
Thousands of firefighters from around the nation arrived to attend a memorial service for Prescott's Granite Mountain Hotshots and pay final respects July 9, 2013, at the minor league hockey area in Prescott Valley, not far from where they died on June 30.
A circle of toy fire trucks sits at the bottom of a memorial dedicated to the 19 firefighters killed in the nearby wildfire in Prescott, Arizona, July 8, 2013.
Firefighters pray in front of a memorial dedicated to the 19 firefighters killed in the nearby wildfire in Prescott, Arizona, July 8, 2013.
Retired Moline, Illinois firefighter Mike Radford watches a memorial service for Prescott's Granite Mountain Hotshots on a screen from a parking lot outside Tim's Toyota Center, July 9, 2013 in Prescott, Arizona.
A wildland firefighting crew does 19 push-ups next to a memorial in honor of the 19 firefighters killed in the nearby wildfire in Prescott, Arizona, July 8, 2013.
Anaheim, California firefighter Brent Hirst, center, kisses his daughter, Morgan, 9, on the head while waiting to enter Tim's Toyota Center for a memorial service, July 9, 2013 in Prescott, Arizona.
Firefighters from around the country walk in formation outside Tim's Toyota Center, July 9, 2013, in Prescott, Arizona.
Mayer fire department chaplain Rev. Bob Ossler, right, greets firefighters from the White Mountain Lake, Arizona fire district as they arrive for a memorial service, July 9, 2013, in Prescott, Arizona.