I just want to say, ‘Thank you’

Published 2:40 pm Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Doctors and emergency medical personnel are unnecessary. Unless, of course, you need medical help.

Law enforcement officers are not necessary, either. Unless, of course, you need them.

Firefighters are completely unnecessary, as well. Unless, of course, you need them.

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I have a friend whose job is to address emergency breakdowns on offshore oil rigs. His knowledge, experience and expertise and needed if and only if something goes wrong. For most of his shifts, he sits in his nice accommodations, snacking, watching movies and playing games.

“People don’t want to see me come out of my room, because they assume something bad is happening, and I’m on my way to fix it,” he once told me. “If they see me run out of my room, they panic. I don’t get paid for what I do. I get paid for what I know how to do.”

In May 2023, I interviewed Brookhaven firefighter, EMT, and soon-to-be paramedic Lt. Chris Davis. We talked about how the men and women who serve in emergency services are not constantly in emergency situations — but they’re trained and ready to be at any time.

Davis summed it up very well by saying, “We get paid for what we are willing to do and what we can do.”

In recent weeks, firefighters across Mississippi (as well as many other places, I know) have worked repeatedly, extensively, and fearlessly to extinguish fire after fire after fire. The extremely dry conditions have led to the quick spread of flames through grass, trees and underbrush, consuming acre upon acre with startling speed as men and women — many volunteers — try to get the fires contained and snuffed out.

I have heard reports of many Volunteer Fire Departments working together with Mississippi Forestry Commission fire crews in temperatures reaching above 100 degrees already, not counting the extreme temps from the fires themselves.

I’ll relate two recent reports. The first was in Lincoln County, and involved an unoccupied house. Crews worked for hours to put the fire out in the tough conditions, and numerous people and business owners stepped up with the donation of ice, water, sports drinks, and snacks for the firefighters, as well as checked on them just to make sure they were doing OK.

The second was in my home county, Newton County. According to a volunteer firefighter there, no one from the community showed up to offer any such assistance during a recent wildfire. He felt the people in the community were no longer interested in supporting them. A local resident said he was sorry the firefighter felt that way, but most people were not aware of what was going on and those who knew something was happening were simply staying out of the way of first responders. I believe that’s true. It can be hard to know help is needed at the moment, but I think the people of my hometown area are in general kind and generous. I also believe most were lifting prayers for the firefighters’ safety.

I hope that we can show support well to our first responders, our law officers, our medical personnel, and everyone else who sacrifices much for the safety and benefit of others — whether it’s through showing up with sports drinks or praying, or both.

One more thing — if you see first responders sitting around, eating, joking, and “not doing anything,” be sincerely grateful that there’s no emergency situation for them to be responding to. They need rest and stress relief more than you may realize. I don’t really want to see emergency vehicles speeding past with lights and sirens on. That means something is going on that requires help.

I’m thankful for the men and women who serve in these ways, but I’d rather they had nothing to do.

If you are one of these men or women, especially if you do what you do on a volunteer basis, I express to you my deepest thanks. God bless you all.

News editor Brett Campbell can be reached at brett.campbell@dailyleader.com.