With a handshake and earnest ‘thank-you,' honorary plaques and medals were passed from one hero's hands to another's Thursday night.
Captain Chris Whitehead and Firefighter Second-Class Steven Morris, of the Statesboro Fire Department, stood before a room of war veterans - ironically nervous - as each was honored by the American Legion Post 90 for valor displayed in the line of duty.
The firefighters were recognized for saving the life of a 12-year-old boy, who had become trapped, unconscious, in his burning Lydia Lane home in December.
"We wanted to commend these two firemen for risking their lives to save that kid from a burning house," said Dan Foglio, Commander of American Legion Post 90. "I think the community should appreciate what they've done, and we hope this will help."
"We are very pleased to have organizational groups, like the Legion, that look to honor and recognize the efforts of our guys," said Tim Grams, Fire Commander for the Statesboro Fire Department. "[Whitehead and Morris] were put into a very stressful atmosphere and were able to save a young man's life. We are very proud of them."
After coming together for food and drink, and before the Legion's regular, monthly meeting, the veterans gathered in the post's main room to recognize their guests of honor.
The firefighters were beckoned to a podium, where each was presented a plaque commemorating their bravery, good-conduct medals and a gift certificate to a local restaurant.
"It's very humbling to receive this award from gentlemen such as yourselves," Whitehead told the crowd. "It's special, and we appreciate it."
"I just want to thank all of you for the honor," Morris said. "We really do appreciate it."
Both men echoed a modest sentiment they have displayed since pulling the young boy from his fiery bedroom a month ago.
"It's a very humbling experience. We were just doing what people expect us to do," Whitehead said. "We're glad we can provide that service to everybody. Just getting a ‘thank-you' is nice; especially coming from gentlemen like this, who have allowed us to live everyday like we do. I'm very thankful for tonight."
"We were just out doing our job," Morris said. "It feels really nice to receive this honor."
Grams, Statesboro Fire Battalion Commander Jason Baker and Deputy Commander Ronnie Shaw spoke on behalf of the two men and the fire department, while thanking the Legion for the recognition.
"I speak for the entire department in saying we are very proud of these two guys," Grams said. "It is very rare we go on a call where all the stars line up. While these two guys were the main event that night, we had many, many people from EMS, police, and fire that were instrumental in rescuing that young man. We are just so fortunate to have a department full of guys like this."
"They went above and beyond what we normally do. Each one of them has a family to go home to. They put everything to the side and risked their lives," Baker said. "I could not be more proud of Captain Whitehead or Firefighter Morris. I've said it a million times since that night, but I couldn't be any prouder of these guys or the rest of their shift. Everyone did an excellent job."
Jeff Harrison can be reached at 912-489-9454