March 12, 2008

Gov. Kaine honors Virginia Guard troops

By Capt. Dayna Rowden
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

(L-R) Sgt. Ross Holsclaw, Spc. Michael Eames, and 1st Sgt. Terry Thompson of B Company, 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry stand behind Gov. Timothy M. Kaine at a ceremony Feb. 28 in Roanoke to recognize Soldiers, firefighters, and other personnel who helped battle forest fires throughout the Commonwealth earlier in the month. (Photo by Capt. Dayna Rowden, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

ROANOKE, Va.  On Feb. 28, Governor Timothy M. Kaine thanked members of the Virginia Army National Guard in Roanoke for their efforts in battling wildfires that ravaged Virginia a couple weeks ago.

Standing should-to-shoulder with members of the Roanoke County Fire and Rescue Department and the Virginia Department of Forestry, 1st Sgt. Terry Thompson, Staff Sgt. Ross Holsclaw and Spc. Michael Eames, representing the 100 Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 116th Infantry who fought the fires, received hearty handshakes and thanks from the governor.

During the week of Feb. 10, over 100 Soldiers from the Virginia National Guard responded the declared state of emergency.

“We went down to Fort Pickett for the day to give us a brief familiarization course in wildland fires, so we knew a little bit about what we were getting into,” said Staff Sgt. Ross Holsclaw.

Three hundred forty-eight wildfires burned across the Commonwealth on Feb. 10 and burned 16,000 acres, the largest amount of fires recording Virginia in a single day. At the Green Ridge Mountain fire, officials said 4,000 acres burned. 

Richard Burch, chief for Roanoke County Fire and Rescue, said, “When resources came in from the Department of Forestry and National Guard, when they came in and the other departments came in, it worked well. The cooperation was outstanding.”

Spc. Michael Eames receives a handhsake and a personal thank you from Gov. Timothy M. Kaine during the ceremony. (Photo by Capt. Dayna Rowden, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

In the face of a challenge, we responded as a team, said Kaine. These were citizens helping their neighbors.

According to the Virginia Department of Forestry, these fires were four times larger than the last wildfire record in the 1960s

“This was the most challenging day in terms of wildfires that the state has ever responded to,” said Kaine.

The Virginia National Guard, the Virginia Department of Forestry and the many other fire departments across the state saved over 250 homes and property valued at over 10s of millions of dollars. 

“We expect great public service from those who serve the Commonwealth,” said Kaine, and that is what the Commonwealth received from these heroes.

Kaine quoted Winston Churchill saying “Never was so much owed by so many to so few.”

“Those few very bravely protected so many, and we owe them a lot,” the governor added.

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