Local industry, VIAM Manufacturing and area veteran groups honored local first responders during ceremonies held Tuesday, Sept. 11 for their service to the community.
“At the end of that day (Sept. 11, 2001), we said we’d never forget that day. I’m pretty proud to still be doing this. Some people have forgotten that day,” said VIAM Chief Operating Officer Keith Hayes, adding that the employees make the donations possible.
Each year, VIAM employees collect over $20,000, which is split among Manchester Fire Department, Police Department, Coffee County Sheriff Department and Rescue Squad.
VIAM welcomed a new beneficiary of its annual drive this year, A Soldier’s Child Foundation, which aids children of fallen soldiers. The foundation is based in Murfreesboro.
A Soldier’s Child Founder and Executive Director Daryl J.W. Mackin spoke during VIAM’s afternoon ceremony.
“We want to be there for our kids, but there are thousands and thousands of kids of people who have fought for our nation that are asking…does anyone (really care),” he said.
The group works to mentor Gold Star family youth, celebrate their birthdays, provide youth camps for them and provides scholarships to dependants of fallen soldiers.
“To say that (America) cares for children that are at risk, we don’t have to look too far,” he added.
Community Patriot Day event
This year’s community Patriot Day ceremony was held at 7 p.m. at Coffee County Central High School to accommodate those who have to work during the customary 11 a.m. event on the square.
A dozen first responders were recognized, including personnel from the county volunteer fire departments, Manchester and Tullahoma police departments, Coffee County Sheriff Department, Coffee County Rescue Squad, Tennessee Highway Patrol and Coffee County 911 Communication Center.
“One of the greatest gifts that we receive is largely from those that we don’t know. Our way of life comes from the sacrifices and hard work of those who serve in our fire, police departments and military,” said American Legion Commander Paul Gish, who conducted the ceremony.
“(We) try to convey our appreciation in a small way for what they do on a daily basis,” he said.
Gish led a moment of silence for the victims of the 2001 attacks, noting how the attacks changed our society.
“The dedication to duty of those first responders lost that day cannot be overshadowed by time or conspiracy concerns,” he said. “There are families who are serving and grieving to this very day.
“Heroes die, as they so often do, but they are not forgotten. They are remembered in every monument that we see, song we hear and will be in the hearts of those who cherish freedom forever,” Gish said.