Hello again from Charleston. As the legislative session hits full stride in it's third week, I am taking a brief pause from my lawmaking responsibilities to remember a somber tragedy that occurred in our state last week.
It is with a heavy heart and deep sadness that I use this space to recognize Lt. Johnnie Hammons, 49, and firefighter Timothy Nicholas, 26, who lost their lives while battling a mobile home blaze with the Craigsville-Beaver-Cottle Volunteer Fire Department in Nicholas County. They could just as easily have been from our hometowns and we could be feeling the tragic loss of friends and family.
So often in our society we look for heroes in athletes and celebrities when the real heroes in our lives live and serve among us. These two men are the very embodiment of what it means to be a hero. They did not have to offer their services to become volunteer firefighters, but they did so because, like so many others that make the same choice of service, they take great pride in their community and they want to make their towns to be a safer place to live.
Understand that these men and women that volunteer their time and service do so on their own dime.
They are not paid and they pay for their own travel to receive the extensive training they need to do the job to the best of their abilities.
These valiant men and women have other jobs and careers as well as the many responsibilities their homes and families require.
These gracious volunteers manage to balance the duties of home and work with the incredible responsibility of being on call at a moment's notice to protect the homes and lives of others.
This sense of duty and sacrifice commands our respect and that is why I am currently sponsoring Senate Bill 9, which would provide volunteer firefighters with a well-deserved benefit.
This bill would provide an exemption on state personal income tax to members of volunteer fire departments who meet certain qualified service requirements.
This will help with recruitment and retention of the volunteer firefighters that our smaller, local communities in West Virginia desperately need.
I want to make sure that these courageous men and women are recognized and appreciated so that the ultimate sacrifice of men like Lt. Johnnie Hammons and Timothy Nicholas is not in vain.
My thoughts and most sincere prayers are with their families and loved ones and all of our firefighters throughout West Virginia. Take time this week to say thanks to someone who cares about you. We never know when it may be the last chance we'll ever receive.
I encourage you to tell me what you think about these issues or any issues affecting our state and our district.
You can write to me at Clark S. Barnes, State Senate, West Wing, Room 203, State Capitol Building, Charleston, W.Va. 25305.
You can contact me by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can also call my Charleston office at 304-357-7973.