Honoring those who serve
Sounds easy enough, right? Get a bunch of people together, find a nice hall, buy some trophies and plaques, and you're good to go. The truth is something far greater when the honors are bestowed on members of the Frederick County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association (FCVFRA), though.
Last Monday the association honored several people with awards for service, commitment, bravery, and dedication. The Walkersville Fire Hall/Martins Catering facility was the host, and the FCVFRA put on a great show.
First things first. The people being honored in this ceremony are different from the rest of us. Remember, they're the ones who run into those burning buildings that we're running out of! They're the ones who stay up into the wee morning hours baking and cooking to serve hundreds of us at fundraisers.
These awards should be presented in a black tie gala with mandatory attendance of everyone who benefits, which means the place would have to hold over 200,000 people.
We honor the winners of the National Football League Super Bowl with a flashy ceremony and a big ol' diamond ring. We give a nice trophy and a big check to the National Basketball Association player with the most impressive slam dunk.
Edie Rinehart, a dedicated volunteer from Thurmont, who has dedicated countless hundreds of hours to both her home company and the FCVFRA, was given the Mumma Outstanding Service Award. The Mumma family helped build the Rocky Ridge Fire Company into the great organization it is, and Edie has done the same thing throughout the county.
Michael Crawford, a Walkersville Fire Company volunteer, received the Mick Mastrino Instructor/Safety Trainer award. Mr. Mastrino was a legend in the county fire/rescue service, and training and preparation was his thing. Mr. Crawford continues that legacy by mentoring young Walkersville members, teaching them what they need to know to keep themselves and others safe on the fire ground.
We give out Emmy Awards to television shows, Tony Awards to theatrical performances and Oscars to movies that leave a lasting impression. The shows are entertainment extravaganzas, with klieg lights, limousines, and flashbulbs popping.
Rachel Gouker and Travis Featchley of the Middletown Fire/Rescue Company received awards in a much more humble setting that recognize much more significant accomplishments. Rachel won the Charles "Mutt" Deater Apprentice Award, and Travis received the Winona Eaves Crum Rookie of the Year Award. Mr. Deater and Winnie Crum both lost their lives in the line of duty, Mutt with United and Winnie with Walkersville. Both were role models we can all be proud of, and Rachel and Travis are cut from the same cloth. Both are high school students, both work, and both find time to volunteer.
The Michael Wilcom Officer of the Year Award went to Steve Wentzel of Rocky Ridge. Mike Wilcom gave his life to the New Market Fire Company, and he died trying to protect others. Firefighter Wentzel works tirelessly to make the members of the Rocky Ridge Fire Company better trained and organized to do their work. Mike Wilcom would be proud of Steve's work.
Three awards went to various fire company auxiliary members, the ladies who toil behind the scenes at breakfasts, suppers, bingo, and any other event that goes on in a fire hall.
The Everett Gaver Award went to Silvia Hipkins, who has sacrificed years of her time for her church, the Farm Bureau, and her fire company. The Louise Lenhart Auxiliary Encouragement Award went to Ruth Ellen Smith, who sets a great example by showing up early and leaving late from fundraisers, never complaining about the work. The Cleta Abrecht Woman of the Year award went to Louise Rice of Middletown, in acknowledgement for her 40-plus years of volunteer service.
Several departments received awards for their collective service. Guardian Hose Company of Thurmont received the Clint Hughes Award for promoting Fire Prevention programs, community awareness initiatives, and overall community commitment. Myersville, Brunswick Ambulance, and Carroll Manor received 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place in total average training hours per member.
The James Stavely Fire Prevention Award went to Crystal Brooks of Walkersville, noting her knowledge of fire prevention techniques and her status as the youngest fire prevention officer in the history of the company.
The Robert Renner Departmental Service award was given to Doug Smith of the Urbana Fire and Rescue Company. Doug was instrumental in the new building addition in Urbana, and is an active volunteer for fundraisers and company events.
The FCVFRA Firefighter of the Year award was presented to Greg Lawson of the New Market Fire Company. Greg responded to an ATV accident along railroad tracks near Old Bartholows Road. The rider had wrecked his ATV a mile from where the apparatus could reach him, so Greg got on another ATV to get to the scene.
On the way, he was thrown from the vehicle he was riding, and suffered a head injury. Greg realized that a train was headed towards the original accident victim, who was lying partially across the tracks. Without regard to his own condition, he ran to the victim, pulled him from the train's path, and started administering medical treatment.
The train passed the spot where the victim had lain within 10 seconds of Mr. Lawson's brave action. Greg eventually left the scene to be treated for his own injuries at Frederick Memorial Hospital.
In the evening's highlight, the newest members of the FCVFRA Hall of Fame were inducted. They are:
Dr. James Marrone;
James Weigand; and
Master and Mistress of Ceremonies were Smiley and Judy White of Thurmont, two of the most respected members of the FCVFRA. FCVFRA President Jim May, of Urbana, couldn't be there to celebrate, and guess why? He was working a Hazmat incident in Montgomery County! Believe me, Jim wouldn't have missed this evening for any other reason.
No Hollywood star, no media celebrity, and no superstar athlete can claim anything approaching the sacrifice and commitment of all of these outstanding Frederick County residents.
Too bad our society places so much value on things that mean so little. If justice were truly done, all of the heroes mentioned above would be placed on a pedestal and put on display for all of their outstanding characteristics, and for caring enough about strangers to risk their lives and limbs.