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‘Guardians’ treated to picnic, blessing

‘Guardians’ treated to picnic, blessing
‘Guardians’ treated to picnic, blessing
Melvin Shewmaker, a Harrison Township Volunteer Fire Dept. firefighter, left, Larry Day, an Elizabeth VFD firefighter, Paul (Pete) Martin, a Ramsey VFD firefighter, and Kevin Barrow, a former Corydon VFD firefighter, talk before a Blessing of the Badges ceremony Sunday at the Talmage Windell Memorial Agriculture Building in Corydon. Photos by Jo Ann Spieth-Saylor

Harrison County’s ‘guardians’ ‘ law enforcement officers, conservation officers, firefighters, Emergency Medical Services personnel, air medical crews and dispatchers ‘ and their families were treated to a picnic Sunday at the Talmage Windell Memorial Agriculture Building at the Harrison County Fairgrounds in Corydon. The free meal was followed by a Blessing of the Badges ceremony.
‘So many guardians approached me after the dinner and thanked me for our group effort,’ Lisa Long, president of the Chamber of Commerce of Harrison County, said. ‘Although the process was not without its hiccups, the end result was perfect.’
Besides the Chamber, the event was hosted by the Harrison County Community Foundation, Harrison County Government, Harrison County Indiana Bicentennial Committee, Harrison County Agricultural Society and, a group formed earlier this year, Responding for First Responders. Sponsors were First Harrison Bank, Harrison County Hospital and Heritage Ford.
‘Given we only had two months to plan and promote a first-of-its-kind event (for the county), I am very happy with the result,’ Long said. ‘The Blessing of the Badge ceremony was so moving, and I am so glad we got the opportunity to incorporate Responding for First Responders in the event.’
The First Responders group, in March, had started planning a blessing ceremony; the date picked was Sunday. When the word got out a few months later that another, similar event was being put together for the same day, Missy McKim, the First Responders committee chair, contacted Long about combining their efforts.
To begin the solemn blessing ceremony, David Stewart played the bagpipes and preceded the Indiana State Police color guard to the stage. Following the playing of the national anthem and the reciting of the pledge of allegiance, Jim Mayfield, chairman of the Responding for First Responders group, thanked the event’s sponsors and his committee members (McKim, Libby Stinson and Evelyn Hunter) as well as the family members of the guardians.
He said the event provided an opportunity to show appreciation for those who lay down their lives every day for others. In addition to giving a brief history about why the First Responders group was formed (to help those in emergency services who may suffer from post traumatic stress disorder), he read a letter from an anonymous writer about how exercise helps him deal with PTSD.
Lt. Jerry Meddock Jr., the guest speaker for the program, acknowledged that exercise, as well as dancing, helps him with the stress of his job as a chaplain of Bethel Township Fire Dept. in Medway, Ohio. The Level Two firefighter also is an advanced EMT and assists with chaplain duties at the New Carlisle (Ohio) Fire Division.
Meddock, who is known as the Dancing Chaplain, shared some of his moves with several Girl Scouts prior to the program when DJ Josh Walker, of Nfinite Sounds, played ‘Watch Me Whip/Nae Nae.’ (Walker also is a volunteer firefighter with Ramsey VFD.)
‘Very rarely are we called for anything that isn’t bad,’ Meddock said, referring to the guardians. ‘One common part of these uniforms … is a badge.’
A brief history about the law enforcement badge, the Maltese cross, Star of Life, air medical services and dispatch was given, respectively, by Officer Mike Kurz of the Harrison County Sheriff’s Dept., Meddock, Mayfield, who is a member of the Georgetown Township Fire Protection District, Jeremy McKim, a paramedic with Air Methods air ambulance service, and Denna Decker, a Harrison County dispatcher.
Guardians, some with family members, made their way to the stage to have their badges, helmets or other equipment blessed by Mayfield and Richard (Dick) Goodwin and Frank Pendleton, both chaplains with the Harrison County Sheriff’s Dept.
After the blessings were concluded, the program moved outdoors where a large American flag hung from the Harrison Township and Ramsey volunteer fire departments’ ladder trucks. In addition to the playing of ‘Taps’ and ‘Amazing Grace,’ Air Methods did a flyover to conclude the program. (A special prayer was said for the Air Methods crew as they were called to respond to a crash scene involving an ambulance crew.)
Partners for Sunday’s event were the Corydon Moose Lodge, Tyson Foods, Harrison County Community Services, Bill’s on the Hill and O’Bannon Publishing Co. Inc. Besides volunteers from the event hosts, sponsors and partners, others assisting included Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Main Street Corydon and Leadership Harrison County.
The First Responders group also had a silent auction at the event.
Long said $732 was raised at the door (non-guardian attendees were asked to make a minimum $5 donation for the meal that consisted of grilled chicken, hamburgers and hot dogs, baked beans, potato salad, coleslaw, cookies and water). Any money left after expenses was designated for the annual Shop with a Cop event sponsored by the Frank C. Denzinger Fraternal Order of Police Lodge.
‘I am overwhelmed by the number of volunteers that stepped forward to honor those that do so much for us and our families,’ Long said.
There was talk Sunday of making the appreciation/blessing program an annual event.