VFW honors heroesPublished 3:25pm Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Members of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5184 most certainly know a thing or two about service to their country and to others, so it’s fitting that for the past five years, this honorable organization has held a special ceremony to honor two other groups of people dedicated to service.
At their annual Veteran’s Day celebration held this past Sunday, the VFW honored local firefighters and police officers and named volunteer fireman Dale Morris as the fireman of the year and Franklin County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Mark Swindle as the police officer of the year for 2012.
VFW Post 5184 Commander Bill Jackson presented both Morris and Swindle with plaques and engraved knives and thanked them for their service to area residents.
“It’s always a special thing for us to be able to do this for our police officers and firefighters,” Jackson said. “These two men are dedicated to what they do and are obviously well thought of by their peers.”
Even though the VFW presents the awards, the honor is voted on by fellow firefighters and police officers, which is something Morris said made the honor even more special.
“It means a lot to me to know that the guys thought enough of me to nominate me for this award,” Morris said. “I work with a great group of people at the Russellville Fire Department, so to be selected as the fireman of the year out of that group is a big honor.”
Morris has been a volunteer firefighter with the Russellville Fire Department for three years but has spent a total of 15 years as a volunteer fireman.
Jackson said Morris is the first person to be selected for the award who was a volunteer and not a full-time fireman.
“I think that speaks volumes about how much the other firefighters think of him and what a good job he does,” Jackson said.
Russellville Fire Chief Joe Mansell said Morris isn’t someone who has to be asked to help – he just jumps in and does whatever needs to be done.
“Dale is a person that will be there anytime he is needed,” Mansell said. “He will jump in with the guys on duty and help out any way he can.
“I have had the opportunity to watch Dale over the past three years and I see the pride he takes in being a firefighter and a servant to his community.”
Morris said it was nice to be honored just for doing something he loves to do.
“When I first started being a volunteer firefighter I just got hooked on it and knew it was something I really enjoyed,” he said. “I enjoy helping people and being there when people need you, and I just enjoy giving back to the community.
“This was definitely a special award for me and I’m very honored.”
Capt. Mark Swindle has been in law enforcement since 1978 when he started out working the radio with the Phil Campbell Police Department.
Since that time he has also worked for Red Bay, Vina and has been with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, where he currently works, for 26 years.
Being in law enforcement is something Swindle said he wanted to do because of his father, Buford Swindle, who was an officer for more than 30 years in the county.
“I saw his willingness to help other people in their time of need, and I knew that was what I wanted to do,” Swindle said. “Somebody has to be there when things go wrong, and I wanted to be that person.”
Tommy Clay, a member of the VFW Post 5184, said he was glad Swindle had made the decision to be a police officer because that decision had saved his life.
He recounted a time several years ago when he was being attacked by a vicious dog. He said no one else was able to step in and help him and he was afraid he was going to be killed, but Swindle showed up and got the dog off of him.
“If it wasn’t for this man, I would have been dead,” Clay said. “That dog would have surely killed me and I wouldn’t be here today. He definitely deserves this award in my book.”
Swindle said he was just doing his job and what he promised to do when he agreed to serve and protect his community.
“I love my job and what I do and it has been a privilege to work at the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office and to serve the people of Franklin County,” Swindle said.
“Officers aren’t always recognized for the job they do, and I appreciate the VFW having this ceremony and I appreciate my co-workers nominating me for this award. It is such a great honor to me.”