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Wilson County first responders were by recognized for exemplary service Thursday at the first-ever Local Unsung Heroes Banquet hosted by the Wilson Community College Foundation.
A dozen nominees from Wilson County 911, Wilson County EMS, Wilson County Emergency Management, the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office, Wilson Fire/Rescue Services and Wilson Police Department were honored, with seven receiving special recognition for going above and beyond the call of duty.
Wilson Police Officer Ryan Brown was awarded the Red, White and Blue Award for donating bone marrow that saved a child’s life.
Wilson Fire/Rescue Services Deputy Chief Michael Sumner was recognized with a Service Award. Sumner, who has been diagnosed with a rare medullary thyroid cancer, responded when a friend suddenly had a heart attack by performing CPR while waiting for paramedics to arrive. Doctors credited Sumner with saving the friend’s life.
Five members of Wilson Fire/Rescue Services were presented the Patriotism Award for actions at a Dec. 30 motor vehicle wreck. They include Capt. Josh Nichols, engineer Pittman Horto and firefighters Cody Walker, Joe Henry and Don Edwards.
One of the vehicles was engulfed in fire and crewmen noticed that there were three people still inside.
The front passenger was still moving despite severe burns.
Keith Warren, chairman of the Wilson Community College Foundation Board of Directors, detailed the situation for the 150 business and community leaders who were in attendance.
“Captain Nichols assigned Firefighter Henry to constantly hold the fire back while the other members made an attempt to remove the victim,” Warren said. “The gasoline-led fire was under the feet of the crew while the victim was extricated. The entire crew went above and beyond and worked diligently to attempt to save the victim under dangerous conditions. They performed under conditions that were extremely hazardous to themselves in an effort to save a life.”
Warren said the fire was “a serious threat” during the extrication.
“The hose line in place was able to keep the fire off the crew just long enough for the victim to be removed,” Warren said. “Once the victim was removed, Captain Nichols and Firefighter Walker then assisted EMS with patient care and rode in the ambulance to Wilson Medical Center. The crew did an exceptional job under serious danger to themselves. Their bravery and dedication is a prime example of the fire service and what it represents as an asset to the public.”
Award nominees included Matthew Joyner of Wilson 911, Christopher Aquino and Justin Parrish of Wilson County EMS, Gordon Deno of Wilson County Emergency Management and Lt. Adam Howell of the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office.
Col. Wayland E. Parker, retired U.S. Army veteran, said first responders don’t have any idea what the emergency could be when they roll out on a call.
“The first responder has to get there and make an assessment in order to save lives and save property,” Parker said. “They just know there is a crisis and they just get up and go.”
Parker said hurricanes Florence and Michael pressed first responders into service throughout the state.
“You have to be highly trained and always prepared. You never know when the call might come in,” Parker said. “A first responder is a selfless servant. Deep down in their soul, it’s what they do. They are not looking for recognition. They are doing all these things because it’s the right thing to do. God bless these heroes and God bless America.”
All of the nominees and award recipients received standing ovations from the attendees.
Gary Proffitt, chairman of the fundraising committee for the WCC Foundation that organized the event, recognized Jim and Kitty Moyer of Water Guard Inc. as invaluable program sponsors. Proffitt said the event, a fundraiser for the foundation, met its intended goal of $25,000, which will be used for student scholarships.