On Friday, June 3rd, a Nicholas County Sheriff’s Deputy, Thomas Baker, was shot and killed while serving a warrant. Thomas, 48, was from my parents' home town of Summersville, WV and somebody whom both my parents knew. The loss came as a large shock to not only the community but to the entire state. First responders from all across West Virginia and from other states paid their respects, and state officials, including the Governor, spoke at the service.
Although I didn’t know Tom, as those who knew Deputy Baker called him, I think he is worth talking about. For me, Deputy Baker’s passing illustrates the real danger that uniformed first responders face everyday. For many, we often do not think of the sacrifices that these men and women make until a tragic event happens. At times our faith is even shaken in them- that is until we hear about the actions of those like Deputy Baker.
Being a first responder is mostly a thankless job. We often do not notice them in the background at an event like a concert or festival, in the front of our schools, outside the bus depot, or even when they are off duty pumping gas, buying groceries, or just walking down the street. First responders are the first line of defense for every community and at times I think we forget about that.
Some branches are even more thankless than others. With a relative of mine graduating as a paramedic, I learned that if you assault a paramedic or EMT, you would be charged with a misdemeanor. Whereas, if you assaulted a fireman or law enforcement, it was a felony. This did change recently but to me still demonstrates the incongruence in value we place on first responders, even among the different types of first responders.
Next time you see a first responder, please consider acknowledging the work they do to keep the community safe. Whether that is nodding, tipping your hat, saying hey, or striking up a small conversation, anything, I am sure, will be greatly appreciated. After all, it is the smallest gestures that often mean the most.