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Benton County Rescue Squad celebrates 50 years of service

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To commemorate the golden anniversary of the Benton County Rescue Squad (BCRS), the BCRS hosted an open house at its Camden headquarters on Saturday, July 27. State Representative Bruce Griffey presented squad members with a legislative proclamation and thanked BCRS members past and present for their years of loyal and dedicated service to Benton County.

“Thanks to everyone who came out to our open house!” said Captain Dwayne Presson. “It’s been a great 50 years and we look forward to serving our community for the next 50 years.”

The summer of 1969 will be remembered by many as NASA’s Apollo 11 mission, the first men on the moon, and the height of the Vietnam War. Eighties rocker Bryan Adams even sang a song about it, but here in Benton County, in the summer of ’69, a group of like-minded men gathered in the basement of the Stockdale-Malin Funeral Home on July 22, 1969, to form the Benton County Rescue Squad (BCRS), whose mission was to help people in need during emergency situations and render first aid.

The minutes of that first meeting were recorded and are still on file today in the office of the rescue squad. After that first meeting was called to order, the first article of business was to elect the officers who would lead the BCRS. The 10 men who took those positions were Commander W.T. Patterson, Vice-Commander Jerry Berry, Secretary John L. Garcia, Treasurer Thomas Taylor, Public Relations Director Tom Bordonaro, Unit Director Charles Greer, Camden Team Captain Woodrow White, Camden Team Lieutenant Jerry Pierce, Big Sandy Team Captain Gordon Wheatley, and Big Sandy Team Lieutenant Larry Waters. Of the original officers and members, Berry and Jerry Farris are still active lifetime members today.

On October 6, 1969, the BCRS was chartered by the State of Tennessee, and on September 12, 1970, active members were approved by the Tennessee Association of Rescue Squads (TARS). By January 1970, the meetings had moved to the Camden General Hospital, and after new construction was complete, the BCRS moved to their new headquarters and current facility on Factory Street on November 18, 1975.

Other notable events in BCRS history include the acquisition of the Hurst Jaws of Life in 1979, which enabled the rescue squad to quickly access damaged vehicles to remove victims more quickly, and the building additions of 1988 and 2014. Today, the BCRS is well equipped to handle many different types of rescue scenarios, and it boasts a membership of 36 total personnel with an active membership of 29 men and women who give selflessly to help others in need. There are 19 lifetime members who have at least 20 years of service.

BCRS members have also been elected to serve in key leadership positions at the state level in TARS and have served in integral membership, budget, and training committees. Lifetime member Ross Guy has served two terms as TARS President. Currently, David Tuck serves as TARS Region IV Vice President, and Tim Moss serves as TARS Historian.

Although the people may have changed over the years, today’s members share a common vision and the desire to serve their community just as those original members did in the summer of 1969. BCRS members have been instrumental in helping to advance modern rescue training techniques statewide and in implementing rescue college training classes that are becoming well known at the national level. Fire and rescue organizations outside of Tennessee have reached out to TARS for training, because it is considered some of the best in the nation.

The BCRS is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization, and its personnel continually train to be able to respond to many types of accidents. In addition to vehicle extrication, the BCRS provides other vital services to area residents including farm rescue, water rescue and recovery, land searches, and trench rescue. The rescue squad is staffed by dedicated volunteers from the community and relies on the community’s financial support to operate.

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