Polk County Fire Rescue’s annual award ceremony on Dec. 2 at the Bartow Civic Center honored the outstanding service and dedication of the volunteers and paid personnel that keep it running.
“There have been a lot of people who’ve put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into this organization, all for the good of the residents and visitors of Polk County. They are what it’s all about,” said Polk County Fire Rescue Chief David Cash.
• 9/1/1 Professional of the Year: Jaclyn Church
• Fire Services Support Person of the Year: Kevin Hubbard
• Emergency Management Professional of the Year: Paul Womble
• Inspector of the Year: Greg Toole
• Friend of Fire Rescue: Bryan Lacey (Civilian Honoree)
• Iguana Award: Station 870 (East Lake Wales)
• Community Service Award: Brandy Duncan
• Paramedic of the Year: Charlie True
• Firefighter of the Year: Jordan Caldwell
• Fire Officer of the Year: Yamile Ruiz
• Robert Gilmore Meritorious Service Award: Benny Luke
• Benjamin Lang Medal of Valor: Jordan Caldwell
• The Ben Lang Medal of Valor, and the Bob Gilmore Meritorious Service Award were established in 2012.
These two men epitomize the selflessness and commitment to the principles of public safety and these awards are reserved for individuals who demonstrate the same, the department said.
• Benjamin Lang Medal of Valor: Ben Lang was a full-of-life young firefighter who devoted his life to the fire service displaying the attributes of a public servant fully. As people in the field can attest, public service is a “heartfelt” calling. They do, go, see and touch things in their daily walk that most in the world wrinkle their noses and say,
“I cannot do what you do.”
While there are many variations of truth to this type of statement those in public safety always have something looming in their minds; they may be called to give all for one. Such is the case with Ben. Ben made the statement just the day before his death, when questioned about one day becoming an officer, “ … all I want to be is a firefighter,” he said.
Ben made the ultimate sacrifice, losing his life in the line of duty the very next day. His statement is all-inclusive to the “heart” of a public servant, which includes, all too often, that sacrifice.
• Robert Gilmore Meritorious Service Award: Robert Gilmore Sr. or “Bob” as he was known, was a remarkable individual. He served as a machinist mate in the U.S. Navy and retired a senior chief. Bob dutifully completed three full, live combat tours in Vietnam. After military retirement Bob became “inbound Bob” to the department. He was not satisfied with the retired life ultimately becoming a paramedic.
Even in retirement, Bob appeared to be tireless; he worked the busiest areas of the county for most of his career. Bob devoted his life to serving others. His legacy would simply be, “do whatever is in the best interest of the patient.”
For many years to come, the desire, knowledge and tenacity to do what is right for the customer will be remembered in the name and legacy of “inbound Bob” through the Robert Gilmore Meritorious Service Award.
— Provided by Polk County Fire Rescue