Moments of courage

Red Cross breakfast honors county's heroes

Photo with no caption
By Lance Coleman
Senior reporter
Blount Today

Some of the most powerful American heroes don’t carry guns, but they do watch the bottom line.

According to WIVK on-air personality and Blount native Ted "Gunner" Ousley, the group Islamic terrorists fear the most are American business people.

"They are very afraid of the American economy funding the American military - that’s a fact," Ousley said during the 2007 Blount County Heroes Awards Breakfast.

Heroes was the theme of the day at the breakfast, with local people being honored for their contributions and extraordinary service. From doctors to teenagers, the program honored those "ordinary people doing extraordinary things," said Betty Hale, director of the American Red Cross Blount County Chapter.

The fifth annual event was a breakfast on Thursday, March 29, at the Airport Hilton, presented by the American Red Cross Blount County chapter.

Dr. Allen Romans, medical director for the Blount Memorial Hospital emergency department, was honored for his more than 20 years of service.

Romans said he was just doing his job and that the Emergency department staff does not get the recognition they deserve. "All the Emergency department personnel are the real heroes," he said. "We try to take care of the patients and do it in a way that’s respectful."

Romans said that while he will try to scale back on his schedule, he will keep his position as medical director. "I plan on staying until the Lord calls me home or (administrator) Joe Dawson fires me," he said, with a laugh.

Romans thanked his wife for her years of support despite his sometimes hectic schedule. "I know she’s felt neglected and abandoned, but she made my life a winner," he said.

Sgt. Chris McClain of the 134th Air Refueling Wing was recognized with the Emergency Medical Services Award. On March 24 of 2006, he heard a 911 radio call regarding an individual submerged in water off Mentor Road. He arrived, dove into the water and pulled the woman to safety. "What I did I hope is what anyone would have done that day if put in the same situation," he said. "It’s humbling to get an award like this. Thank you."

Capt. Lisa Godsey with the 134th said she has known McClain for 14 years. "He has a true passion for people," she said.

Brinlea and Brianne Smith were recognized with the Youth Good Samaritan Award by Tony Thompson of First Tennessee Bank. While driving in their neighborhood with their father one evening in August of 2006, a woman stopped them holding a limp 2-year-old child who had gone underwater while in a wading pool. Because both girls had been trained in Adult Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation and First Aid, Brinlea started CPR while Brianne called 911.

"We want to say thank you to everyone," Brinlea Smith said. "This is a great honor."

Charles "Chuck" Lewis, Jr. was recognized with the Firefighter Award by Melissa Copelan of Alcoa, Inc. "The recurring theme here has been taking action. That’s what Chuck did," she said. "Not only were you a hero, you were a life saver."

Lewis is a 911 Emergency Communications dispatcher, emergency medical technician and a Blount County firefighter. On April 11, 2006, Lewis was eating dinner with his wife at a restaurant when he heard a commotion and saw an older woman choking. He performed the Heimlich maneuver and saved her life.

"I’m not a public speaker," he said. "I want to thank Alcoa and (Blount County Fire Department) Chief Doug McClanahan."

Blount County Sheriff’s deputy Allen Russell and K-9 Dasha were recognized with the Law Enforcement Award by Darrell Tipton of Realty III. "People like Allen work for us day-in and day-out, and we owe them a debt of gratitude," Tipton said.

On Aug. 16, 2006, Russell and Dasha found an 87-year-old blind woman who had been missing for more than six hours.

They located her in a nearby field tangled in a barb wire fence and hanging almost entirely upside down.

"I’m the speaking half of this outfit," Russell said. "I want to thank God because with every track run, there’s a prayer said
before, and one that’s said when it’s done."

Russell thanked his wife for her support throughout the years because often his work took him away from her. "My wife puts up with a lot," he said. "There are a lot of late night phone calls and plans interrupted."

Jim Butcher of Blount County was recognized with the Adult Good Samaritan Award by Operations manager Ron Parker of Rural/Metro Ambulance Service.

While doing some carpentry work with someone else on the exterior of a house, both he and another man were on separate ladders when they both fell onto the concrete below them. Butcher assisted his fallen comrade immediately. "I started CPR, got him breathing and had my wife call 911," Butcher said. "I really didn’t think about it. It was something that needed to be done, and I did it."

Butcher said having CPR training is invaluable. "You never know when you’re going to need it, if nothing else, for your family," he said.

Former Maryville mayor Steve West was recognized with the Community Impact Award by Jim Woroniecki of Denso Manufacturing for his civic leadership and philanthropic contributions.

Woroniecki said that West has always been involved in the community, whether in leadership or support roles. "When I first came to this community, every place I went, Steve was there, either in the forefront or the background," he said.

"I accept this award for the community because the community has allowed us to do the things we do," the Chevrolet dealer said.

West said Blount County residents help one another. "It is a community of many givers," he said.

Blount Memorial Hospital was recognized with the American Red Cross Award by Betty Hale, director of the American Red
Cross Blount County Chapter.

Blount Memorial Hospital administrator Joe Dawson said it’s the mission of everyone at the hospital to improve the health and well-being of people in the community. Dawson said the hospital staff works to provide care in an outstanding way.
"The hospital is not an individual. It’s made up of 2,500 people," he said. "They’re all heroes."

Ousley was honored for his work through the "Voices from the Front" segments he arranges through WIVK radio. During these segments, listeners are able to hear military personnel talk with family members here in East Tennessee. Ousley also spent time embedded with members of the 278th Regimental Combat Team, and his stories focused on the positive work those personnel did in Iraq.

Ousley said one of his childhood heroes was current Blount County mayor Jerry Cunningham when Cunningham was serving as a U.S. Marine in the Vietnam War. Ousley and his class wrote letters to Cunningham. "I always looked at him in awe. I knew what happened in Vietnam. I always said if I ever got the chance and got behind a microphone, I was going to do something for the military," Ousley said.

Ousley’s first "Voices from the Front" was during Operation Enduring Freedom following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. "We’ve done over 300 broadcasts, many with the 278th when we took the show to Baghdad for a month," he said.

© 2007 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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