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Saluting local heroes

July 24, 2019

Courthouse monuments
The Johnson County Courthouse houses several monuments on its lawn to honor fallen first responders. Photo by Meg Dickens.

By Meg Dickens

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a first responder as a person among those responsible for going immediately to the scene of an accident or emergency to assist. Whether they are EMTs, firemen, soldiers, police officers, or another category of first responders, these people risk their lives protecting and saving others. The Tomahawk Salute to First Responders is a chance to honor these everyday heroes.

Johnson County has the Mountain City Police Department, Johnson County Sheriff’s Department, Johnson County Emergency Management Agency, Johnson County Rescue Squad, 911 Dispatch, and nine volunteer fire departments. Funding for these organizations comes mostly from grants, local government, or service charges. For example, 911 Dispatch gets part of its funding from the $1.17 fee charged on landline and cell phone bills per phone.

These heroes serve the public daily. However, they are not immune to the stress and mental strain associated with their jobs. According to the SAMHSA DTAC (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Disaster Technical Assistance Center) Supplemental Research Bulletin, first responders are 10 percent more likely to develop depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and similar maladies than the general public. This is partly because of the lack of time between traumatic experiences. According to a study published in the Prehospital Emergency Care Journal, this is true for 69 percent of EMS personnel.

“Being a member of Doe Valley Volunteer Fire Dept. has taught me a lot. The people that do this care and are very passionate about helping people,” said volunteer firefighter and County Commissioner Megan McEwen. “Most of them work full time and have families. They sacrifice a lot, and it’s not easy at all! There is a lot to remember. I feel very fortunate to be part of such a special team!”

Tennessee and the United States governments are now taking actions to improve life for first responders. Tennessee House Bill 518, passed on May 29, 2019, is one such effort.

“Many of our rural communities rely on volunteer firefighters to protect them from all forms of harm,” said Tennessee State Representative Timothy Hill said. “House Bill 518 will establish a state-funded grant program to ensure our local heroes have the proper equipment and necessary training to protect their neighbors.”

The House of Representatives recently passed the Never Forget the Heroes Act to extend the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund until 2090, which covers medical care for first responders exposed to chemicals and other hazardous conditions during the tragedy. The Senate read the bill on July 16, 2019, and have not decided as of yet.

Remember to say thank you to our first responders. This small gesture means a lot to these heroes who continuously risk their health and safety to protect the community. Follow in the government’s recent footsteps and support local first responders.


See more stories from our First Responders special edition in print.