Candle-light vigil

By Tech. Sgt. Timothy Chacon, 62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs on August 5, 2016

During a candle-light vigil in 2009 for slain Washington state police officers, Seattle Police Department Detective Carrie McNally was inspired to do something to bring the first responder community together in a positive way.

This idea turned into the "Stand with Those Who Serve" annual public safety appreciation event conducted on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, July 23, for the second consecutive year.

"Our families don't always know why we serve or the reasons that we do our job, and they are scared," said McNally. "This is an opportunity to bring our families out and come together to show them this is the safety equipment we have; these are the people that have my back and I have theirs."

Many Washington state and federal agencies were on-hand to educate and possibly recruit servicemembers transitioning out of the military.  Agencies like the Department of Fish and Wildlife, the FBI, Department of Corrections and many others were available.

"Agencies had representatives at the event to showcase their capabilities and answer questions, said McNally. "Not only for the benefit of their own community, but for potential new additions. All (of them) seeking men and women to join them and they all believe the military is a great source of dedicated leaders that would make great additions to any agency."

The mission of SWTWS is simple: honor the first responder community and give back to those who serve.

"We expect nothing; we always support community events, but we seldom do anything for our own community and our own family, this is that opportunity (to do so)," said McNally.

Although they all belong to the same community, some agencies don't always interact with each other on a regular basis.

Opening lines of communication and creating relationships was one of the biggest benefits of the event, according to McNally.  

"The interaction between the agencies we work with and seeing each other's capabilities allows opportunities for collaboration, (which) is really critical to all our success," said McNally. "There's a lot of organizations that support first responders and it's important that we allow those interactions before something critical happens. All these organizations support the first responder community when something bad happens, and this is a great opportunity for them to get to know each other under positive circumstances, so if something bad happens, they feel comfortable calling them and access those resources."

The importance and impact of first responders and the work they do is something State leadership holds in high regard, showing so by declaring the week of July 23-July 30 as "Stand with Those Who Serve" week.

The proclamation signed by Washington State Governor Jay Inslee states: "The duties, responsibilities, hazards and sacrifices facing the public safety community on a daily basis earn them the respect, admiration and gratitude of those they serve and protect. Washington's public safety personnel from city, county, state, federal and military agencies are critical to keeping our communities safe."

Having a good relationship with the local community and first responder agencies is a priority to the base and its own emergency agencies.

"We have military members who live and work in the community, and if anything happens, the local first responders have lines of communications with the base," said Charles Thornton, JBLM Department of Emergency Services joint operations officer. "This has been an amazing event. Having the event here on JBLM gives the first responder community a secure location and gives military members access to potential future employers."  

In its sixth year the SWTWS annual public safety appreciation event shows no sign of losing support or momentum.

"There is a lot of energy and work that goes into it, but I always know why we do this, so it's worth the work and effort," said McNally.