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Exchange Club honors first responders

Top firefighter, officer named

Posted: November 22, 2015 - 12:01am
The Columbia County Exchaneg Club honored Columbia County sheriff's Staff Sgt. James Moss, left, as the group's 2015 Police Officer of the Year and Columbia County Fire Rescue firefighter Matthew Blessing as the Firefighter of the Year at a Thursday ceremony.   Photo By Valerie Rowell
Photo By Valerie Rowell
The Columbia County Exchaneg Club honored Columbia County sheriff's Staff Sgt. James Moss, left, as the group's 2015 Police Officer of the Year and Columbia County Fire Rescue firefighter Matthew Blessing as the Firefighter of the Year at a Thursday ceremony.

The Columbia County Exchange Club honored first responders Thursday at the group’s annual Firefighter and Police Officer of the Year Awards banquet.

The group honored a firefighter and a law enforcement officer from each Columbia County Department – the Grovetown Department of Public Safety, the Harlem Department of Public Safety, the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office and Columbia County Fire Rescue.

Officers and firefighters nominated from each department were recognized.

Columbia County sheriff’s Staff Sgt. James Moss was named the club’s 2015 Police Officer of the Year largely because of a July 4 incident involving an 11-month-old child falling into a family pool. Moss responded to the home in less than two minutes and took over lifesaving measures.

“Staff Sgt. Moss took over CPR and was able to clear the child’s lungs of water and the child started breathing on his own,” according to Exchange Club member Bill English. “Staff Sgt. Moss stayed in contact with the family members during the ordeal to ensure that a full recovery was made.”

Officers perform many unrecognized acts of courage and lifesaving actions, but Moss said the occasional pat on the back is appreciated.

“It is very nice,” Moss said holding his plaque. “This is awesome.”

Other officers nominated were Grovetown Sgt. Robert Eastman and Harlem Officer David Reynolds.

Columbia County Fire Rescue firefighter Matthew Blessing was named the club’s 2015 Firefighter of the Year. Blessing, was working as a paramedic for Gold Cross Emergency medical Service on the early morning of June 2, when a fire broke out at Marshall Square Retirement Resort. More than 80 residents were trapped inside the burning building.

“When firefighter Blessing arrived on scene, the firefighter in him ‘kicked in,’” English said. “He, along with other medics quickly put on breathing equipment and offered their assistance in the rescues.”

He, wearing breathing equipment and carrying a tool, braved the burning building with other first responders to evacuate residents.

“It was a surprise,” Blessing said of the recognition. “I had no idea.”

Other firefighters nominated were James Newman of the Harlem department and Grovetown Lt. Matthew Owens.

Guest speaker Magistrate Judge Bobby Christine said he’d just finished reading a book by Sir Thomas Carlyle, published in 1833, that focused on who we would now call emergency first responders. In that book, Christine said first responders are called the apron for society.

“An apron protects us from mistakes we make ourselves, from mistakes others might make and from other instrumentalities, other things that might get on us, even hurting us,” Christine said. “Law enforcement, first responders are the aprons of society, frequently, frequently not appreciated.”

But it’s these men and women presented in the cliche that they run into buildings where everyday citizens run away from for the sake of the safety of others.

“Think about that imagery that represents and what it says about describing the character of the men and women who would do such a thing,” Christine said. “It speaks volumes about their character and the stuff of which they are made.”

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