The Siloam Springs Rotary Club honored the men and women of the Siloam Springs Fire and Police departments with its "Celebrating Siloam Springs First Responders" program held Saturday afternoon at the Chautauqua Amphitheater in Memorial Park.
A full lineup of speakers were on hand, including local and regional Rotary representatives, local and national elected leaders and members of the police and fire departments.
The emphasis of the program was honoring the first responders for their work during the covid-19 pandemic.
"When we see people who are first responders today who put 'service above self' to others, we gladly honor them," said Siloam Springs Rotary President Stanley Church.
"We can't say thank you enough," said state representative Robin Lundstrum (District 87).
U.S. Representative Steve Womack flew in from Washington, D.C., for the event. Womack said he believes the respect of first responders is one thing that unites American people.
"You honor the people who serve you in uniform," Womack said. "Those first responders are a national treasure of the United States of America. They keep us safe."
Womack said its first responders who will continue to help the country bounce back from the covid-19 pandemic.
"We will land on our feet from covid because we have men and women wanting to respond," he said.
Members of the fire and police department gave some testimonies of their roles during the pandemic.
Fire Chief Jeremey Criner said when the pandemic began, there was a "fear of the unknown."
He spoke of how the fire department had to make changes to the way it operated to keep its staff safe.
"But our core mission did not change," Criner said. "We just had a few more road blocks in the way. We will always be ready for whatever challenge presents itself. We will always be ready to serve you."
Deputy Fire Chief John Vanatta headed up the recent immunization program for covid-19 vaccines and gave an update on the two vaccination clinics hosted by the fire department.
Vanatta said more than 2,500 shots were administered on fire department property.
Lieutenant Blake Osbourn and firefighter Blake Alexander gave a demonstration of what EMTs had to go through when responding to a potential covid call, including donning the proper safety equipment.
Police Chief Allan Gilbert led off the speakers for the police department.
He said his main job during the pandemic was to keep his officers healthy. He and Womack also gave credit to the dispatch staff for the job they do.
"Those girls and guys are amazing," Gilbert said.
DeAndra Strickland, community outreach and school resource officer, gave an update on officers working within the community.
"The outreach and support has not stopped," she said.
She said there were challenges at the schools, but said the kids were "rock stars."
"While covid made it difficult, we were still able to overcome," she said.
Officer Corey Jackson and K9 Lorde gave a brief demonstration as well.
Rotary District 6110 Governor Kevin Merrill also spoke at the event and Lundstrum presented the fire and police department with new American flags.
The Rotary Club also made a donation to the family of Prairie Grove officer Tyler Franks, who was shot in the leg three times in the line of duty on May 4. Franks had to have part of the leg amputated.
The Rainbow Girls were also on hand to present chocolate to the first responders, while the Boys Scouts presented the pledge of allegiance and the Siloam Springs American Legion Post 29 Color Guard presented the colors.
The band "About the Father's Business" also was on hand to entertain the crowd.