Botetourt Fire and EMS Department Battalion Chief Jason Ferguson and Battalion Chief Brandon Golla presented two Medals of Valor and a Medal of Heroism to three members of the Eagle Rock Volunteer Fire Department during Friday’s regular Board of Supervisors meeting.
“This is a tough one to talk about,” Ferguson said as he addressed the board while many of the Eagle Rock fire and rescue volunteers looked on.
The medals were for the valor and bravery that Alan Wright, Christopher Keyser and Travis Smith showed on June 23, 2016 while attempting to rescue a family stranded by flood waters in Alleghany County.
Wright went into cardiac arrest when the three were dumped into the flooded creek. He was revived but remains handicapped by the incident and could not be at Friday’s ceremony.
His wife, Dawn, accepted the Medal of Heroism that will also be presented to Alan.
“Each fire and EMS provider— volunteer or staff— accepts the risk each time they answer a call. We may leave out the door this evening and not know whether we will be back,” Ferguson said. “Alan accepted that risk.”
Ferguson said Wright exhibited the willingness that all fire and EMS providers do when they attempt to save a life, and because of that, he was presented with a Medal of Bravery for his actions and heroism.
Keyser and Smith were tethered together with Wright during the swift-water rescue and were also injured.
They were presented Medals of Valor for “”actions above and beyond the call of duty; and exhibiting exceptional courage, extraordinary decisiveness and presence of mind; or an unusual swiftness of action, regardless of his or her personal safety, in an attempt to save or protect human life.”
Ferguson said things have progressed well since that summer night one-and-a-half years ago, noting the support system has grown stronger.
“We all go out on calls every day and don’t know what we’re going to find,” Eagle Rock VFD ____ Jerry Dean Caldwell told the supervisors. We all thought it was going to be just a regular day, and an accident happened that was out of our control. We’ve got to pray for Alan every day and keep the faith….”
The ceremony drew praise from all of the supervisors who thanked the volunteers and career staff.
“It’s hard to express in words how much we appreciate what you do. The service you provide is unbelievable,” Supervisor Billy Martin said.
“Thank you so much for the courage you have shown,” Board Chair Jack Leffel told Mrs. Wright. “There are no words in my vocabulary to express myself. Thank you.”
The audience gave a standing ovation for the three.
— Ed McCoy