Back the Blue event held at local church

By Tammy Watts

GREENVILLE — The First Assembly of God Church, located on S.R. 118 in Greenville, hosted a “Back the Blue” event to honor law enforcement, and other first responders. City and church officials read several proclamations to locally recognize Peace Officers Memorial Day (May 15), Police Week, (May 11 to 17), International Firefighters Day (May 4), and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Week (May 15 to 21).

President John F. Kennedy proclaimed the first Peace Officers Memorial Day in 1962, to honor those killed in the line of duty; EMS Week was authorized by President Gerald Ford in 1974. International Firefighters Day originated in Australia, to commemorate the loss of five strike team members battling a wildfire.

First Assembly of God Pastor Dale Boeger expressed his heartfelt appreciation for police officers, praying for their physical, as well as mental health. “PTSD and suicide are on the rise, so emotional safety is important, too,” he stated.

Boeger recounted a personal story, having experienced a heart attack as he was leaving the YMCA 18 years ago. One of the first responders was a man with whom he had worked out at the YMCA, and consequently, was already familiar with his heart history. Boeger credits God and EMS personnel for his full recovery.

Archbishop of the Church of God of the Apostolic Faith Lee Bowling shared his frustrations that EMS is not considered “essential” in Ohio, and therefore, not eligible for state or federal funding. He pledged to meet with lawmakers in order to gain support for including EMS as an essential service. Tri-Village Rescue Services Chief Eric Burns has also been working toward this end for the past several years, as one of only four Ohio EMS Chiefs to attend the National EMS on the Hill summit in Washington, D.C.

Awards were given, including the Chief of Police Award to Greenville Police Chief Eric Roberts, the Exemplary Service Award to Lieutenant Ryan Benge of Greenville, Patrol Officer of the Year Award to Piqua Officer Christopher Rowe, and Officer of the Year Award to Greenville Patrol Sergeant Ben Boyer.

Bluffton Police Chief Ryan Burkholder was presented with a memorial wreath in honor of Officer Dominic Francis, who was killed in the line of duty on March 31, 2022, while placing stop sticks during a pursuit. Burkholder said that the small department is still struggling to cope with the tragedy.

“We’ve had three more pursuits since that day,” he stated. “Every day is a challenge.”

Senior Bishop Andy Roberts of the Church of God of the Apostolic Faith, delivered a brief message, praising first responders as those who “stand in the gap for the land,” referencing Ezekiel 22:30, in order to protect and serve. Other clergy present were Darke County Sheriff’s Deputy Kelly Moody, who also serves as Lead Pastor at Living Water’s Ministries Community Church, Pastor Jim Morehouse of the East Main Church of Christ, and Pastor Alliyah Greaver of St. John Lutheran Church.

State Rep. Rodney Creech (OH-43), Greenville Mayor Steve Willman, Greenville City Councilman Jeff Whitaker, and Darke County Sheriff Mark Whittaker also attended.

Contact Daily Advocate Reporter Tammy Watts at [email protected]