By Thomas Sellers Jr.
This past Sept. 11 gave the family of the late Fayette County Fire District Chief Jason Byrd a chance to pay tribute to his service and remember his impact on a community in the Volunteer State. The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security hosted the annual First Responder Awards ceremony.
The event was held in Conservation Hall at the Tennessee Residence. It was a ceremony to honor those who have– dedicated their lives for the safety and security of Tennesseans as firefighters and police officers.
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, first lady Maria Lee, Commissioner Jeff Long and State Senator Becky Massey (R-Knoxville) joined honorees, their family members and agency representatives to recognize first responders as well as the recipients of the Three Stars of Tennessee Award.
Three Stars of Tennessee Award goes to those who gave their lives in the line of duty. Joining Byrd as 2019 Three Stars of Tennessee Award honoree were Sgt. Steve Hinkle (Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office), paramedic Zachary “Zach” Pruitt (Jackson Medical Center EMS), officer Nicholas Scott Galinger (Chattanooga Police Department), and officer John R. Anderson (Metropolitan Nashville Police Department).
Byrd, 42, passed away of an heart attack during a service call on Feb. 18. That day District Chief (Station 14) Byrd and his station responded to a fire at a two-story single family home. Chief Byrd was assisting in deploying a ladder so firefighters could gain access to the roof of the home. While holding the ladder, he suffered an apparent heart attack. Within 15 seconds of the medical emergency, responders administered advanced life support measures to Chief Byrd and then transported him to a local hospital where he was pronounced deceased.
Byrd had been with the Hickory Withe Fire Department since 1997, and he transitioned into Fayette County in 2005. He served as the chief of District 14 in Fayette County for 12 years. He is survived his wife Jamie Gray Byrd of Arlington; children, Shelby Marie Byrd and Jackson Ray Byrd. Byrd also left behind his parents, John Everette Byrd and Patricia Yager Hale (Walter Bruce) of Millington; his step-mother Brenda Byrd; his grandmother Jean Byrd.
The 2019 event also recognized 24 honorees who were nominated by his or her peers and represent the 11 homeland security districts, law enforcement agencies, and emergency responders throughout Tennessee, as well as state agencies.
First Responder Recipients
Dispatcher Jessica Donihe, Bristol Police Department
Investigator Wendy Zolkowski, Oak Ridge Police Department
Officer Ethan Grantham, Knoxville Police Department
Captain Hank Smith, Bradley County Fire and Rescue
Firefighter Zakk Gilreath, Bradley County Fire and Rescue
Lieutenant Aaron Hicks, Bradley County Fire and Rescue
Lieutenant C.J. Davis, Bradley County Fire and Rescue
Dispatch Supervisor Becky Waller, Bradley County Fire and Rescue
Timothy L. Booher, Paramedic and Emergency Management Coordinator, Pickett County EMS
Chief Ronnie Hummel, Firefighter and First Responder, East Clay County Fire and Rescue
Captain Michael Wilkerson (retired), Nashville Fire Department
Officer Brandan Hendricks and Officer Shavell Lucas, Clarksville Police Department
Sergeant Shanna Grice, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office
Director Johnny Cheatwood, Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office
Director Larry Glass, Lawrence County Emergency Medical Service
Officer Brandon Wheeler, Dyersburg Police Department
Deputy Whitney Cobb, Madison County Sheriff’s Office
Deputy Brandon Massey, Madison County Sheriff’s Office
Shelby County Fire Department and Millington Fire Department
Colonel Keith Watson, Memphis Police Department
Special Agent Andrew Graves, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation
Trooper Jon Judge, Tennessee Highway Patrol