Smithville Volunteer Firefighter and Deputy Chief Hoyte Hale received the "Highest Attendance Award" Friday night during an appreciation dinner for city firefighters at the Smithville First United Methodist Christian Fellowship Center.
The award was presented to Hale by Smithville Fire Chief Charlie Parker. This is the third straight year Hale has earned this award.
Hale, a 32 year veteran of the department, attended 148 out of 175 calls during the year 2016. This includes calls, trainings, and workings.
Other firefighters with high attendance responses to their credit were Lieutenant Donnie Cantrell with 139, Lieutenant John Poss with 125 calls, Lieutenant Danny Poss 116 and Lieutenant Kevin Adcock with 95.
Meanwhile two first year firefighters, Seth Wright and Garrett Johnson tied for most documented training hours among non-officer firefighters during the year at 125.5 hours each. Wright and Johnson were also sworn in during the dinner. The swearing in for first year firefighters has never been done before at an awards dinner but Chief Parker said it will now become a tradition each year.
Meanwhile city firefighters were recognized for years of service including the following:
Ryan Herron: Rookie
Garrett Johnson: 1 year
Seth Wright-1 year
Kim Johnson-1 year
Robin Summers-1 year
Bradley Johnson- 3 years
Dalton Roberts-3 years
C.J. Tramel- 3 years
Shawn Jacobs-Auxiliary 4 years
Cory Killian-6 years
Glen Lattimore-9 years
Stephanie Wright-11 years
Gary Johnson-12 years
James Randall Hunt-12 years
Wallace Caldwell- Chaplain 13 years
Lieutenant Kevin Adcock- 18 years
William (Wink) Brown-19 years
Greg Bess-photographer 22 years
Lieutenant John Poss-26 years
Captain Jeff Wright-31 years
Deputy Chief Hoyte Hale-32 years
Lieutenant Donnie Cantrell-37 years
Lieutenant Danny Poss-37 years
Chief Charlie Parker-37 years
Chaplain Caldwell spoke briefly of the meaning behind the “Maltese Cross”, the badge of a firefighter.
“The Maltese Cross is a symbol of protection and a badge of honor. Its story is hundreds of years old".
"When a courageous band of crusaders known as The Knights of St. John fought the Saracens for possession of the holy land, they encountered a new weapon unknown to European warriors. It was a simple, but horrible device of war. It brought excruciating pain and agonizing death upon the brave fighters for the cross".
"As the crusaders advanced on the walls of the city, they were struck by glass bombs containing naphtha. When they became saturated with the highly flammable liquid, the Saracens would hurl a flaming torch into their midst. Hundreds of the knights were burned alive; others risked their lives to save their brothers-in-arms from dying painful, fiery deaths".
"Thus, these men became our first Fire Fighters and the first of a long list of courageous men. Their heroic efforts were recognized by fellow crusaders who awarded each hero a badge of honor – a cross similar to the one fire fighters wear today. Since the Knights of St. John lived for close to four centuries on a little island in the Mediterranean Sea named Malta, the cross came to be known as the Maltese Cross".
"The Maltese Cross is our symbol of protection. It means that the Fire Fighter who wears this cross is willing to lay down his life for others just as the crusaders sacrificed their lives for their fellow man so many years ago. The Maltese Cross is a Fire Fighter’s badge of honor, signifying that he works in courage – a ladder’s rung away from death,” he said.