01/20/10 — Firefighters gather to honor their own at annual awards banquet

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Firefighters gather to honor their own at annual awards banquet

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on January 20, 2010 1:46 PM

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Steve Bryan, president of the Jordans Chapel Volunteer Fire Department board of directors, accepts the Wayne County Firemen's Association "Firefighter of the Year" award Tuesday night. It is named after former Mount Olive Fire Chief G. Edgar Summerlin.

Steve Bryan could not help but to think of his father when he took home the honor of Wayne County fireman of the year on Tuesday night.

Bryan, a firefighter with Jordans Chapel Volunteer Fire Department, was the recipient of the G. Edgar Summerlin Award in an evening ceremony at Lane Tree Country Club.

Bryan credits his father, David Bryan, a charter member of the Jordans Chapel department, with instilling within him a dedication to public service.

The elder Bryan died in February, but the memory was still fresh as the firefighter received his award.

"I hate it that Daddy can't be here to see this," Bryan said, his voice choked with emotion as he clutched a plaque commemorating the award, presented yearly since 1958.

Someone in the audience told Bryan not to worry -- that his father was watching from somewhere as his son took the award.

"He is here," the audience member said.

Bryan is the president of the Jordans Chapel board of directors and treasurer of the Wayne County Fireman's association relief fund.

The award came as a surprise, Bryan said.

"I didn't know anything about it until my name was called," Bryan said. "I had no idea it was me."

He had a few guesses as to why he was picked to win the award, however.

"I'm just involved, I guess. I've always been willing to get involved, to do things to help my (fellow firefighters), the people that we serve, and with supporting the department," Bryan said.

The evening's events, which attracted many public officials including Sheriff Carey Winders, District Attorney Branny Vickory and Clerk of Courts Pam Minshew, centered around both the honor and danger of being a firefighter.

Guest speaker and N.C. Senior Deputy Commissioner of Insurance Tim Bradley, also an assistant state fire marshal, mixed a humorous speech with a nod to the danger that "local first responders" face.

"Each year, we lose 100 fire and rescue persons," Bradley said. "That's actually small in comparison to the number that we injure. It's also small (compared) to number that retire with a lifelong disabling injury."

For those reasons, Bradley said a firefighter's courage is not defined by how many lives he saves or how many trips he takes into dangerous situations -- but rather, when a firefighter makes the decision to take the job.

"The act of heroism takes place when you join the fire department," Bradley said.

The Wayne County Firemen's Association also named other award recipients, and swore in officers for both the Women's Auxiliary and the Firemen's Association itself.

Deb Smith was named Auxiliary Woman of the year, by Jack Howell, the association's outgoing vice president.

Jack Howell was installed as the new association president, replacing the outgoing 2009 president Larry Pierce.

Clerk of Courts Mrs. Minshew also officially installed the new association officers, including Howell, of the Oakland Fire Department, David Brock of Saulston, Danny Tillman, fire chief of Fremont, and Little River Chief Mike Aycock as the association's chaplain.

Women's Auxiliary officers also were installed -- Sue Turner of Saulston, Brandy Jones of Oakland, June Smith of Antioch, Joan Williams of Arrington and Susan Anderson of Little River.