Default 5A short video of the ceremony.
Eleven men and women culminated their Module One training courses and received badges and certificates this week to officially acknowledge them as volunteer firefighters. This includes seven new volunteer firemen for Richmond Hill and four for Bryan County.
The Aug. 12 banquet at the Wetlands Center included slide shows of the training class as well as congratulatory speeches from city officials and local career firemen that had assisted with the training course. It concluded with a swear-in by local attorney and former volunteer firefighter Mark Schaefer followed by Richmond Hill Chief Vernon Rushing and South Bryan Chief Mike Smith pinning badges on each of their new recruits.
The newest firefighters for Richmond Hill are Mitchell Borowiec, Michael Cooper, Gabriele Hauck, Michael Patrick, Larry Peraldo, Sonya Ward and Patrick Welch. The newest firefighters for Bryan County are Ben Edwards, Vincent Hartley, Austin Philpot and Brett Strickland.
Lead instructor and RHFD Lt. Andy Burriss said the Module One class started with 17 people and came down to survival of the fittest. He also said the class this year was more physically grueling than years past.
"We had a wide variety of age groups which brought with it some interesting challenges," Burriss said. "This class impressed me on so many levels. They shared tears and they shared bloodshed, but the only thing they kept telling me was ‘Lieutenant, you’re not taking me off; I’m not quitting.’ This group has truly set the bar for anyone else that enters firefighting training in Richmond Hill from this day forward."
Firefighter Mike Ward, one of several who helped train the recruits, said he witnessed the group form a strong bond throughout their Module One training.
"You crossed territorial boundaries," Ward told the group. "There’s no county, no city, no man, no woman – you just did it. You came together and stood as one. It’s important to establish that now because it doesn’t matter what color uniform you have. Whenever you respond somewhere, you respond as a team."
Mayor Davis spoke of the importance and the integrity of the job for which the recruits have now dedicated themselves to. He said many will go on to be heroes and thanked them for caring enough about their community to embark on the unknown sacrifices that they may encounter.
"A fireman never dies," Davis said. "He just burns forever in the hearts of the people he has saved."