Geraldine Payne, president of the Sperryville Volunteer Rescue Squad board, recently presented a Life Member award to Josh Waddell, so honored for his 17 years of service to SVRS, where he is a volunteer paramedic and a past chief.
Company 1st Lt. Judy Reidinger and Chief Harold Beebout have also earned awards for responding, between the two of them, to more than 2,000 calls in the past five years alone.
SVRS’ selflessness and the spirit of volunteerism was plain while I sat recently with Harold, Judy and member Ray Boc in the squad’s state-of-the-art ambulance, and got a tour of the facilities. The three are what they call “active retirees.” Judy is a registered nurse, retired; her husband Dick volunteers as a driver. Ray Boc, self-described jack of all trades, runs myriad errands on the company’s behalf, providing IT support and all-around assistance.
While there are 30 or so volunteers at SVRS, or Station 7, about 10 or run most of the calls — meaning leaving their warm nests, sometimes in the wee hours of the morning, to respond to an emergency. The squad station responds to an average of 400 calls per year and some volunteers respond individually to more than 200. Rappahannock County is one of a handful of counties in Virginia that maintain all-volunteer emergency fire and rescue squads.
Profiles of that commitment include people like Sperryville residents Dave Hawn and Jennifer Kindall, who last year were awarded Star of Life awards, considered one of the highest national honors that emergency medical services professionals can receive.
Josh and his beautiful wife Heather have three adorable young children and live here in Sperryville. He works three jobs, two part-time (including his continued military service) — not including his volunteer work with SVRS and the Sperryville Volunteer Fire Company. Josh was bitten by the fire bug as a youngster all of 16, lured by “lights and sirens.” He says — prefacing it with the modest admission that it’s “an obvious cliche” — that “it’s God’s calling that I do what I do.”
Medic Brian Ross won the Rappahannock Fire and Rescue Association’s award last year for the top EMS Provider, and is second only to Harold and Judy in calls answered. George Swett, another SVRS volunteer, is likewise not one to speak of personal heroism or guts either, but has fought more than 50 fires in his time in Rappahannock, where he also serves as a Virginia Department of Forestry patrolman.
Many a volunteer share deep service roots; Harold served in the Peace Corps, as did Judy for a number of years, both as a volunteer and an officer. Judy, a gifted musician and singer, and inspired by her experience with the squad, penned “Make a Difference” on her recently released CD “Song for Singing Hearts,” with all proceeds donated to SVRS and the Rappahannock Benevolent Fund.
Courtney King, 17, has volunteered for the past year and participated in Rappahannock County High School’s new service learning program, which allowed her to receive academic credit for her work with SVRS. She’s currently pursuing her EMT certification and plans on becoming a paramedic. Her inspiration to serve in great part came from her younger brother who suffers from severe epilepsy.
These are the calibre of people that help us when we’re in need. They work with their comrades in arms, the seven local fire and rescue chiefs and all the dedicated volunteers. A sign hanging in the SVRS offices speaks volumes: “When We Partner Together Miracles Happen.” They came to my rescue, not so long ago, when I suffered a severe horseback riding incident and was transported to the ER. They are, all of them, Rappahannock’s Top Guns.
Our volunteer fire and rescue companies need more help, more trained EMTs and volunteers in general. They need them desperately and they reach out to all, including our youth, with the service learning curriculum being a recent help in that area. Career paths that often grow out of volunteering can be rewarding, both financially and personally. Many within our emergency response squads and firefighting community work full time in neighboring counties, jobs they hold as a direct result of their volunteer work and training. Think about it . . .