On the day before Veterans Day, 151 small American flags lined the lawn in front of Asbury United Methodist Church. These flags were in remembrance of first responders from all over the country who lost their lives in 2019. The church held a special service honoring local first responders, as well as veterans, on Sunday. The event was organized by Asbury member Chase Hardin, who was assisted by Boy Scout Pack 82 and Cub Scout Troop 82.

In reality, a first responder is very similar to a soldier in that they put their own lives on the line responding to what is sometimes the worst humanity can offer. Like veterans, they come to serve and protect and put themselves in harm’s way to protect citizens. 

“Regardless of what their uniform says, whether it says police, fire or EMS or says Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force or Coast Guard,” Hardin said during the service. “When someone puts on a uniform, they choose to declare that they stand for something bigger than themselves. They choose to adopt the life of helping others, a life of service. That choice runs deep and changes who they are. It changes the people around them, the community and the world. That choice runs so deep that they are willing to lay their own lives down for the cause.”

“This service is important,” Hardin added. “It’s easy for us to take them for granted. It’s easy to go through our lives without stopping to thank those who do so much for us.”

Attending the service was the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office Color Guard and members of the Boger City Fire Department, the City of Lincolnton Fire Department and Lincoln County Emergency Medical Services. Lincolnton Mayor Ed Hatley and N.C. Sen. Ted Alexander, a Cleveland County Republican who represents Lincoln County, were also in attendance.

Hatley wondered himself why the military and first responders were being honored at the same service.

“I thought to myself, ‘it just doesn’t make sense,’ but then I started thinking, those are the two professions that put service before self” he said. “They’re willing to sacrifice everything for you and for me. What better way to honor both than to have a joint service for the first responders and the military.”

When he addressed the attendees, Alexander commented that he has met so many fine people in Lincoln County and that the first responders and veterans who were present exemplified the very best that the region has to offer.

“You can never thank someone enough for what they do,” he said. “They don’t do it for glory and they certainly don’t do it for money. They do it because it’s important. It means something to them and it means something to us. It’s service above self. In a day when so many things that we hold dear are dissed, you see it on television, with people disrespecting our officers and our military, it’s so important for this church and others to remember this is what has made our country great. It is worth fighting for and preserving.”

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