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On 9/11: Dude Salute pays tribute

September 12, 2011
Lee Smith , Fairmont Sentinel

FAIRMONT - The 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States did not go unnoticed in Fairmont on Sunday.

At Dude Salute 2011, people remembered the losses of that day, the sacrifices made since and those who continue to serve their country and communities.

The event at the National Guard Armory in Fairmont paid tribute to military personnel and their families, veterans, police officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians. In other words, all the people who keep us free and safe.

Article Photos

DeDe Kotewa, center, places “Proud to Serve” stickers on the chests of people who have served as police officers during the Dude Salute 2011 at the National Guard Armory in Fairmont on Sunday.

"It's wonderful," said Ruth Theobald, a Dude Salute organizer. "We've been graced by great weather, and I'm amazed by the turnout."

Theobold and fellow organizers have close ties to the military, so hosting the event is something "near and dear to our hearts." She noted the added poignancy given the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

Chuck Mixson served as master of ceremonies, as public servants, military personnel and their families were called up to stage and given "Proud to Serve" stickers, along with warm handshakes.

Mixson tried to put in perspective what it means to dedicate your life to looking out for others by using an anecdote from his own experiences.

He said many years back, he and his family were about to leave on vacation when his wife noticed something strange down the street. When the Mixsons drove down to see what was going on, a man who was on fire emerged from a house.

Mixson used his coat to help put out the flames, then kind of sat on the ground shell-shocked as he looked at the man, whose beard and hair had been singed off.

When a 20-year-old friend of a friend's daughter arrived, she took charge. She was an EMT and asked the obvious question: Is there anybody else in the house? Mixson said he felt stupid for not thinking about it.

"She told me not to worry about it," he said. "She was an EMT and was trained [to deal with these circumstances]."

He then noted that firefighters were soon on the scene, springing into action.

"Our police, firefighters and EMTs put their lives on the line," Mixson said. "They experience things that are tough, if not impossible, to put out of their minds."

And he said that while people may think police are just out there to give us tickets, 98 percent of their job involves helping people.

"The next time you see a police officer, a firefighter or EMT out there, thank them," he said. "Say a kind word. If you're an employer, hire a veteran ... [They] are the largest group of unemployed people in the United States."

Those who attended Sunday's event were encouraged and touched.

Arlo Lueth of Fairmont served his country in the Army during the Korean War. He choked up when asked what Dude Salute means to him.

"It really feels good," he managed. "I really appreciate it."

Stacey Freeman of Fairmont is a mother of three. Her husband, James, is the former Fairmont fire chief now serving overseas in Kuwait as a National Guard member.

"It's good to see all the support," she said of the day. "It's good to see all this help."

The "help" includes funds raised by Dude Salute that will go toward the purchase of a veterans van for Martin County. There is also the Martin County Beyond the Yellow Ribbon campaign that assists military families whose loved ones are deployed. And there is the Family Readiness Group, which gathered at the armory during Dude Salute.

But these are just the organized causes. Freeman said countless people - friends, neighbors, etc. - have come forward to offer their assistance.

That's the kind of news that suits Theobald.

"Our hope is we just want to serve," she said.



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