It was a day to honor those being promoted and those retiring after many years of service to their community. But it was also a day to honor those who support those being recognized.
That was the message of Alexandria City Manager Philip Sunderland to the families and friends of the 28 members of the Alexandria Fire Department who were either retiring or being promoted last Thursday in ceremonies at the George Washington Masonic Temple.
As Sunderland stepped off the stage onto the floor of the auditorium and walked toward the assembled guests, he said, "I want to talk to the families. I want to send something very special to you. My message is to thank you for your sacrifice. I want to thank you for everyone in this city. From all of us who live and work in this city -thank you."
Sunderland had been preceded in his remarks by City Councilman David G. Speck, who spoke to both the families and the assembled firefighters also from the floor rather than the stage.
"We tend to think of our world now as pre and post 9/11. But before 9/11 you were role models for everyone who looks at what you do," he said. "The fact that you engage in work that puts you and your families at risk. Thank you from a very grateful community."
KICKING OFF the ceremonies, Alexandria Fire Chief Thomas M. Hawkins, Jr., noted, "This weekend thousands will gather in the District of Columbia to honor fallen firefighters. Last year 444 were killed in the line of duty, most at the World Trade Center in New York."
In observance of Fire Prevention Week, the local memorial service and wreath laying ceremony will be held Friday, Oct. 11, at Ivy Hill Cemetery beginning at 11 a.m. It will honor the 14 city firefighters who have died in the line of duty throughout the history of the department as well as those that have died in the last year.
As he recognized those up for promotion, Hawkins said, "It is quite an honor to select people and put them into positions of leadership. It is also a very difficult decision to promote when you have so many good people. The only thing I ask is that you continue to do the outstanding jobs you have been doing." The new officers were sworn in by Edward Simonian, Clerk of the Alexandria Circuit Court.
Those promoted to battalion chief and the date they joined the department were: Michael Brown, B Shift, March 1978; Dwayne Bonnette, A Shift, January 1989; Michael A. Farri, C Shift, February 1981; and Thomas Harrell, Training Officer, January 1974.
Those promoted to captain and the date they joined the department were: Byron Andrews, Engine 202, C Shift, February 1983; Thurston McClain, Engine 205, A Shift, February 1981; Robert Robinson, Engine 203, B Shift, January 1989; and Scott Quintana, Engine 201, B Shift, January 1986.
Those promoted to Lieutenant and the date they joined the department were: Charles Davis, Truck 203, B Shift, February 1981; Michael Dunlap, Truck 204, C Shift, April 1994; Rodney Masser, Truck 204, A Shift, September 1992; John Morehead, Truck 208, A Shift, January 1983; and David Thorne, Truck 203, A Shift, January 1984.
OTHERS PROMOTED were: Lisa Jones to Emergency Medical Services Supervisor in charge of A Shift paramedics. She joined the department in 1988; Randal Browning to Fire Emergency Communications Coordinator. He joined the department in 1983; William Coates to Code Enforcement Field Supervisor. He joined the department in 1992; and Mauricio (Tony) Menjivar to Deputy Fire Marshal I. He joined the department in 1991.
Those honored upon their retirement in the order of number of years served were: Steven Flynn, 31 years; Herbert Thomas, 30 years; Carl Hatton, 29 years; Paul Leitch, 25 and one half years; Louis Farri, 24 years; Robert Andrews, 23 years; Patrick Nixon, 21 years; Charles Couture, 20 years; Roy Elkins, 17 years; Daniel Cammer, 15 years; and Cleola Carter, 14 years.
Also taking part in the ceremonies were deputy chiefs James T. Gower and Vincent M. Whitmore; and Michael A. Connor, Sr, Chief Fire Marshal.