A hero’s welcome

Published 2:44 pm Monday, September 22, 2008

AULANDER – Munchas gracias. Spasibo. Mersi.

No matter what language, a simple thank you can go a long way.

Saturday night, the Aulander Ruritan Club gathered to say thank you to the men and women who work to keep their community safe from fire and tragedy. The second annual fire and emergency management appreciation banquet was held at the Aulander Community Building.

During the event, the club recognized the Aulander Volunteer Fire Department, Millennium Volunteer Fire Department and Lewiston Woodville Emergency Medical Services.

“We’re here tonight to welcome members of fire and EMS who offer a great service to our community,” said Ruritan Club President Wayne Smith. “This is our way of saying thank you to the volunteer fire fighters and EMS personnel. Also, thank you to the spouses for the daily support and encouragement you give them.”

Smith said the club wanted to honor those who served the community because of everything the firefighters and EMS do for Aulander and the surrounding area.

“In our eyes, you are heroes day in and day out,” he said. “You show your patriotism by your service and you are always there when we need you. Thank you for being our friends.”

Billy Drew, who serves as Vice President of the Aulander Ruritan Club, gave an update on the club’s functions over the past few years. He also gave his thanks for the work of the volunteers.

“I look at fire fighters and rescue squad members sort of like Super Man,” Drew said. “They change in a minute from regular people to fire fighters and EMS. They are true heroes.

“It takes a special person to volunteer to serve others,” he added.

Drew then talked about the formation of the Aulander Ruritan Club in 1938, just 10 years after the first club was chartered. He said the club spent 50 years serving the community, but was in danger of succumbing to low membership in 2005.

“The club almost surrendered its charter in 2005, but got a breath of fresh air and some new members,” he said. “In 2007, the club continued to grow and undertook the largest project in the club’s history, the restoration of the Aulander ball field.”

Aulander Mayor Larry Drew was the keynote speaker for the event. He too praised the work of those who served the town and community.

“This is a small, humble way to show our gratitude,” he said. “You provide a service that is priceless. We are forever in your debt.”

The mayor echoed Smith’s thoughts, thanking the spouses of those who served as fire fighters and EMS personnel. He also credited those who served for giving many hours to training and learning their responsibilities.

Aulander Town Council representative Jeanette Tinkham also added words of thanks.

“I have the honor of serving as the council representative for the Aulander Volunteer Fire Department,” she said. “It is an honor to work with them.

“I’d like to say from the bottom of my heart, thank you for the job you do,” she closed.

After hearing from those saying thank you, the members of the Aulander Fire Department and Millennium Fire Department were presented badges which were pinned on by spouses, significant others or children.

Following that ceremony, Aulander Fire Chief David Klinger offered his words of thanks.

“I want to thank the Ruritans for the honor they have given us,” he said. “This truly is an honor.”

Klinger also said he would be remiss if he didn’t mention the passing of Aulander Fireman George Freeman.

“You may think a fire fighter’s duty is only when the whistle goes off, but there is a lot of time spent at the station,” Klinger said. “George always helped. George understood the brotherhood of fire fighters and was there for it.”

The Aulander Ruritan Club also held a ceremony to announce the passing of Freeman as a member of the fire department and honored his widow, Barbara Ann Freeman, with a plaque commemorating his service.