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The Excelsior Springs Fire Department held its annual awards ceremony to honor the service of the department’s emergency personnel.

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The evening began with a moment of silence for Lt. David Gray, who passed away in December.

ESFD Chief Paul Tribble said the department always tries to remember those they lost each year at the ceremony. He said if one retires, they will honor them each year in a similar fashion.

Firefighter and emergency room technician Kelsey Cohalla, FF/Paramedic Shane Rendon and FF/Paramedic Jason Ortbals received their badges and pins during the ceremony. Tribble called the families of each man up to help with the pinning process.

The ESFD presents badges after each firefighter stays with the department for a year.

“This is a proud moment for not only the individual, but also their family, and also for everyone that has watched these members develop over the last year,” Tribble said. “There is only a few times in a firefighter’s career that he is pinned ... upon graduation or the completion of their first year, and also when they are promoted. We wear the badge as a symbol of the acceptance of responsibility and the acquisition of a long tradition of service.”

Tribble said he always reads the history of the badge at the ceremony. Many who wear the badge do not understand its significance, he said.

Two organizations that used symbols showing that stood for their cause included the Order of St. John of Hospitalers, who used a red cross. The other group referred to as the Knights of Malta, used a Maltese cross. These symbols stood for loyalty and their mission to assist people in need.

The fire service adopted the Maltese Cross because it represented humanitarian acts, Tribble said.

The badge also includes the “Firefighter’s Cluster,” which displays the devices firefighters use. Some badges display a long pole and ball equipped with a shooting flame. This symbolized the precursor to the lights and sirens that sits atop the modern firetruck.

Most badges have a continuous circle that resembles an unbroken rope and chain, Tribble said. This illustrates dedication and commitment to the duty of fire service.

“No matter what its title, shape, size or design, (the badge) remains a part of the uniform to remind us of our obligation,” Tribble said.

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The department honored Firefighter and Emergency Medical Technician Travis Taylor who served the ESFD for the past 30 years.

Tribble said Taylor began his career in June 1988 as a part time Firefighter. In 1990, Taylor went on to obtain his EMT licensure. The department promoted Taylor in April 1995 to a full-time position as a FF/EMT. Taylor enjoys fishing and hunting in his off time, Tribble said. Taylor recently volunteered to take over the Cadet Program.

“Travis has continued to be an asset to this department, throughout the last 30 years,” Tribble said.

The next award went to Ortbals and FF/EMT Jeremiah Titus for Code Save.

Asst. Chief Joe Maddick presented the award to the two men for providing life-saving care to a non-breathing man without a pulse.

“They basically brought him back to life,” Tribble said.

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Tribble said he awarded the Chief’s Outstanding Service Award to Ortbals because of his impact on the entire department.

“He seldom complains, and if he does, it is usually followed by a suggestion,” he said. “He has accepted his role within the department with an open mind. He continuously runs EMS calls, and has rapidly climbed to one of our best paramedics in a very short time.”

The ceremony ended by honoring their community partners.

Tribble presented Anytime Fitness with a plaque for their willingness to provide fitness training for the department. A boot camp held at the exercise facility helps keeps the firefighters on the path to a healthy lifestyle.

Dubious Claims Brewing Company received a plaque for their willingness to help the department raise money for local women battling breast cancer. With DCBC’s help, the department raised $4,000 for four ladies in the community.

The Excelsior Springs Hospital became a partner with ESFD many years ago, Tribble said. They continually work together to improve the health of the Excelsior Springs community.

Tribble ended the evening by honoring the firefighters.

“These firefighters before you sacrifice so much each and every shift,” Tribble said. “They do not get a lot of recognition for what they do. They respond to numerous calls while the public sleeps, they too have lost an unknown amount of sleep, missed birthdays, holidays, (they’ve) laughed and cried ... In the fire service, we are family. We fight, we bicker, we laugh, we cry ... We are family.”

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