Proud of their service

Published 10:21 pm Monday, February 28, 2011

Considering what they risk every time they go to work and considering the stress and frustration their jobs entail on even the best days, it’s almost too bad that only one firefighter and one paramedic can be chosen to hold the titles of Firefighter of the Year and Paramedic of the Year for Suffolk.

Indeed, the city has a crew of dedicated professionals who earn our respect and admiration every day they spend working in the paid Department of Fire and Rescue. When the rest of us run away from the fires, they rush into the burning homes to rescue people who are trapped inside. When others might panic at the sight of someone who has been seriously injured in an accident, these courageous people hurry to the scene to provide prompt, personal emergency medical treatment and a quick ride to the hospital.

Still, it is appropriate for Suffolk to step back and assess the contributions of the two people who have gone furthest beyond the call of duty each year, and having done so each year, city officials announce their top firefighter and paramedic.


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This year’s award winners are both highly skilled and qualified individuals with years of experience working in emergency services in Suffolk, and as Chief Mark Outlaw said in announcing the awards last week, “Both are well deserving of this recognition.”

Captain Thomas W. “Buck” Johnson, the firefighter of the year, is assigned to Station 7 in Holland and has served with the fire department for almost 34 years. He has a drawer full of certifications and designations qualifying him as an advanced firefighter, but it was his love of Suffolk fire history that earned him the recognition this year.

Johnson, a Suffolk native, was instrumental in setting up a museum at the new King’s Fork Public Safety Building, and future firefighters in Suffolk will have him to thank when they are able to trace an unbroken line of historical artifacts from the earliest days of fire companies in the city all the way to Suffolk’s most advanced units.

“Captain Johnson was nominated for his willingness to take on large and difficult tasks for the betterment of the City and the Fire Department throughout his long career,” Battalion Chief William Edwards said.

On the rescue side of the department, Rainey Cross was named Paramedic of the Year. Also a Suffolk native, Cross has been with the department since 2003. Her responsibilities include training and maintaining continuing education for more than 200 members of the department, initial training for new recruits and CPR re-certifications.

She also serves as a tennis coach for Special Olympics, and she teaches classes for Tidewater Community College and the American Red Cross.

“I enjoy helping people, and there is no better career than one that you go home each day feeling that you have made a difference in someone’s life,” Cross said.

Indeed, both of these remarkable people make a difference in lives each day. And the work they do makes a huge difference to the city of Suffolk. We are proud to know they serve us.