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Heroes Day Honors Lives Lost

By Staff | Sep 9, 2015

Pictured is the Heroes Day proclamation recently issued by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin.

It’s been 14 years since the horrific terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. For many of us we can still remember, as clearly as if it were yesterday, where we were when our country was so viciously and violently attacked. As a nation, we feared we would never the same.

Every year, we tend to stop and remember the haunting anniversary as it passes by on the calendar. However, at the same time, 14 years have passed. We now have sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, grandsons and grand-daughters- so many who perhaps do not know anything about Sept. 11 than what is published in the pages of a textbook.

After more than a decade of time has passed, the qualities of unity, pride in one’s country, and gratitude of first responders can settle like the dust from the rubble of that day.

The Rev. Bill Dawson has spent the past few years making sure no one ever forgets the brave men and women who lost their lives on Sept. 11, or fails to recognize those who continue to serve the community and country.

The product of his hard work and dedication is Heroes Day, an event that has taken place in Sistersville, W.Va. for the past three years.

Bill Dawson, along with his son, Nathan Dawson, are pictured at last year’s Heroes Day.

This year, Sept. 12, 2015 will be recognized state-wide as Heroes Day.

The celebration to honor emergency personnel will now be recognized state-wide after the adoption of House Resolution 16 during the 2015 regular session of the West Virginia Legislature.

Delegate Roger Romine, R-Tyler, was the primary sponsor of this resolution and championed its advancement last session.

“I’m requesting every Fire, Police, EMS, and any other agencies/first responders to call Charleston and thank Delegate Romine for seeing HR 16’s adoption, as well as the governor for his proclamation.”

“I didn’t start Heroes Day for the attention or for the media attention on myself,” Dawson said. “I saw the need to take the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001 and honor the lives lost through that terrorist attack, but at the same time thank those serving today. West Virginia is suffering from a lack of volunteers and a lack of training opportunities.”

“Heroes Day allows the community to see what the fire department offers. They will see the EMS workers and understand what they do, and it will allow the citizens to see the police, look at the equipment they have and see that these Heroes are right here in our community.That is something that every community should be proud of and highlight,” Dawson said.

Dawson admits he was very nervous when planning the first Heroes Day, held Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011.

“I didn’t know what agencies would show up, and I didn’t know if the public would give support,” he states.

Dawson says he was “a little nervous” about approaching council but had discussed the idea of Heroes Day with the Sistersville fire department and Sistersville police department. “Everyone thought it was a great idea,” he states. “I was nervous about requesting a parade through town, but when the mayor and council heard the idea, the city of Sistersville was supportive.”

Dawson received quite the surprise that first Heroes Day as well.

“The worship service was moving with images from Sept. 11, 2001 on the screen, and the message was about Everyday Heroes. The covered dish dinner was wonderful. Chief Steve Leisure took me into my office in the church to discuss some details before the parade.”

“My daughter came in to tell me that I was needed in the fellowship hall. She said that it was urgent. I walked to the fellowship hall and was completely caught by surprise. There standing was a group of firefighters from Garrett County, MD. Through Facebook, they followed the news about Heroes Day. These were my brother firefighters from Deep Creek Volunteer Fire Company. As each one came to me and hugged me, thanking me for honoring all first responders, I realized that this was a big deal and it was important. I knew that this would need to continue and that one day every community would show their thanks and appreciation to everyone serving in their local community.”

On Wednesday, Sept. 2, Dawson received the official proclamation, declaring Sept. 12, 2015 as Heroes Day, state-wide. “It was a wonderful feeling,” Dawson said of receiving the document. “Heroes Day can be a true asset to West Virginia if law makers share the proclamation with each community and county they represent. Heroes Day has a great opportunity to help with morale of volunteer fire departments and EMS agencies. With the recent attacks and murders of law enforcement officers in America, Heroes Day can reinforce to the police officers that the majority of citizens and their leadership in Charleston appreciate their service and support them as they keep the peace.”

As part of this year’s Heroes Day celebration, the West Virginia Chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America will bring the West Virginia travelling wall to Sistersville. The wall will be escorted by fire and police departments, EMS vehicles, and motorcyclists on Thursday, Sept. 10. First responders will stage at the old Big W restaurant at Ben’s Run at 1 p.m. The escort will will begin Thursday, Sept. 10, 2 p.m., rain or shine. The trailer containing the travelling wall will be escorted to Sistersville City Park.

Dawson encourages those who live along the route to have their flags flying to help welcome the Vietnam Wall to Sistersville.

Names listed on the wall are only from West Virginia and includes those who were killed in action, held as prisoners of war, and those still missing in action in South Vietnam, North Vietnam, its seaways and theater of operation.

The wall will be on display 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 11. At 7 p.m. on Friday, there will be a POW/MIA service. The names of those from Tyler, Wetzel, Pleasants, Ritchie, and Doddridge Counties who were POW, MIA, or Killed in Action, will be read.

The wall lists more than 732 West Virginians, but veterans of the Vietnam War believe that more names could be entered on the wall.

Saturday, Sept. 12 holds a variety of Heroes Day-related activities, beginning with 5K races scheduled at 8:30 p.m. at the city park. A parade will begin at 1 p.m., followed by the opening ceremony at the city park. Viewing route for the community is along with Route 2 and Wells Street.

Safety day events, K-9 demonstrations, and Smokey the Bear will also available all day following opening ceremonies, and a United States Army Black Hawk helicopter will be on display at the city park from 2:30-4:30 p.m. There will also be an auto-extrication demonstration and a water battle.

Live music entertainment and food and drink vendors will also be available until 7 p.m.

Heroes Day festivities will conclude on Sunday, Sept. 13 with a Heroes Day worship service at 10 a.m. at Sistersville’s First United Methodist Church. A covered dish dinner honoring our nation’s heroes will immediately follow the service.