Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

August 23, 2013

Heroes among us

By Deanna Kirk
Corsicana Daily Sun

— Years ago, when I first found a home in this newsroom, one of my “beats” was the county. The county as a whole.

And since that was the case, I had occasion to visit every (or nearly every) volunteer fire department in Navarro County. I always thought it was amazing that those men and women not only volunteered their time — as in, they’re not paid for it — but also had to undergo rigorous training, run out willingly into dangerous situations, keep the equipment in good running order, and often, hold fundraisers themselves in order to pay for all their own equipment.

Who would willingly volunteer for all that, you might ask?

This past week I attended my first ever volunteer firefighter banquet. Though a first for me, it seems they’ve been holding these functions for 33 years, with the first being in 1980.

I am here to tell you, it is a special group of people who were gathered in that IOOF Event Center Tuesday night.

Two firefighters of the year were named that evening. Phil W. Calvin, chief of the Navarro Mills VFD, and his late son, Perry Calvin, who perished in the explosion in West April 17 of this year. I doubt any person there disagreed with these choices.

But I neglected to mention in my story about this event that there was a third nominee. Stephen Wiggins of the Mildred VFD was also nominated for Firefighter of the Year for his contributions in the county. Please forgive that oversight on my part. (And for incorrectly identifying Kyle Ware as Chief of Rice VFD, rather than Powell VFD.)

Honored that evening also was the American Red Cross, who are on hand at every fire and disaster to pass out water, feed people, and just generally do what they can to help make the situation less horrific.

I personally cannot imagine what it would be like to live life with a beeper, or radio, whatever those volunteer firefighters carry around to alert them when there’s a wreck, fire, or other disaster. I can’t imagine being woken in the middle of the night or wee hours of the morning and forced to jump into my clothes, run out the door, and be somewhere sharp and focused on the task at hand.

Can you?

Personally, I’m not even coherent until I have at least a half pot of coffee in me.

These volunteers also are available for calls at all hours if your Aunt Bessie has a fall in the house and needs assistance, or Uncle Harold has another episode with his pacemaker out in Bazzette.

Can you imagine the hours of training they must put in to stay current on all the techniques and knowledge they must employ? To learn how to properly use all the equipment they need to jump start a heart, or put out a chemical fire?

Then, on top of that, they are the ones who are out on a Saturday putting on a fish fry, bake sale, quilt raffle, auction, or all of the above, in order to raise a few dollars to keep gas in their trucks.

Remember “Black Sunday” in September a couple of years ago?

Where would we have been that day without all these special, invaluable people at our VFDs?

These folks are truly one-of-a-kind, and it is my prayer we appreciate them more, and show it in a tangible way. Let’s keep them on our prayer list, along with our fire and law enforcement personnel, too.

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Deanna Kirk is a Daily Sun staff writer and editor of Explore. She may be reached by email at dkirk@corsicanadailysun.com. Want to “Sound Off” on this column? Email soundoff@corsicanadailysun.com.