Jun 26 2019
Rebecca Young | The Weston Democrat
Junior firefighters from nine states graduated from Junior Firefighter Camp on June 20. The ceremony took place at the W.Va. State Fire Academy in Jackson’s Mill after a week of training focused on basic firefighting and rescue skills.
USMC Chief Warrant Officer Hershel “Woody” Williams of Fairmont was the guest speaker on Thursday. Williams is the only surviving Congressional Medal of Honor recipient in W.Va. He is one of two surviving recipients in the United States.
Williams was awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism beyond the call of duty that was displayed during the Battle of Iwo Jima in WWII. He is also the only surviving Marine from WWII with the honor, and the only surviving recipient from the Pacific Theater during WWII.
Williams told the junior firefighters that he is in awe and appreciates the attitude and drive behind a firefighter’s call to service.
“I haven’t figured out what motivates people to risk their lives, and sometimes for strangers,” he said before praising everyone present for supporting fire departments.
“Thank you,” he told the crowd.
Williams also told campers that he knows the moment he has to call a fire department, he knows crews will be there to help.
Huntington Fire Department Deputy Chief Brian Greico praised campers for their hard work during the week-long camp, as well as instructors, staff and families of junior firefighters.
“They won’t realize what happened this week for several years to come,” Greico said, adding that when campers look back on the week, they will know and appreciate the support their families gave them.
Greico shared with those in attendance the dedication the instructors have to the campers, saying that several use their vacation time each year to come to the Junior Firefighter Camp. Instructors are not compensated that week, Greico added.
“There is not enough that could be said about them,” Greico stated. He recognized one instructor, Catharine McCray, who has been an instructor at the camp every year since it began 12 years ago.
Greico talked about how smoothly the week went, even though they ran into a problem in the beginning with having two campers and only one bed left. Joshua Keffer, 16, from Richwood was one of those campers.
Keffer, Greico said, made the adult decision to give up the spot to the other camper, who was attending camp for the last year because he was aging out of the program. Staff found a solution, and both Keffer and the other camper stayed.
Because of Keffer’s maturity in making that decision, Greico said, he was awarded with a full scholarship to attend camp in 2020.
Bradley Scott, W.Va. assistant state fire marshal in the Fire Services Division, was in attendance, as well as five other fire commissioners. Out of 114 campers, 29 were from W.Va., two from Texas, and 19 were young women. McCray said was the highest number of female campers she has seen.
For more information on Junior Firefighter Camp, contact the WV State Fire Academy at 304-269-0875. It also has a website, https://extension.wvu.edu/community-business-safety/fire-service/wv-state-fire-academy.