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Hometown Heroes

A Glimpse into the Heart of Local First Responders

Josh Creel, Assistant Chief of Police for East Ridge Police Department

Years in Profession: 23

Being a police officer means showing up every single day with the attitude that you are here to solve problems, think critically, and be open-minded. If you do that, you can affect positive change. No matter what help is needed, you have to be committed to solving problems and providing service to those who need it.

I wish more people understood that this profession is truly inhabited by good people who are sometimes faced with sometimes impossible tasks and there is an expectation of humanity and robotic reaction which, in reality, compete with each other. For officers to act humanely, it can't always be balanced with someone who makes perfect decisions every time. There has to be an understanding that we are people making very difficult decisions to the best of our ability and, unfortunately, experience failure sometimes. Individuals often get cast with a wide net and the whole profession is affected by it. I hope that people can try to take each officer at face value.

I am an officer because I want to be in a job that brings the unexpected and challenges me and that is what this law enforcement does. Being a police officer provides me with an opportunity to make a difference in my community by leaving it a little better than I found it. I love the opportunity to make a difference every day. That may sound cliche, but that difference could be as simple as making a child smile or intervening on someone’s worst day. 

The most challenging thing about this line of work is keeping a healthy perspective. You can't solve every problem, case, or disagreement. So, you kind of have to force yourself to maintain focus on what's essential and what is in your control. It’s extremely important for your mental health to keep that professional separation, but at the same time give it your all. Law enforcement suffers a lot of depression suicide, and other mental health issues simply because of what we are exposed to each day. It's a big challenge and it's because of the human factor involved in what we do. We are humans and we are dealing with humans and it's hard to see heartache and suffering, death, destruction and then go home or go to the next call for service.

Drew Andrews, Walker County Fire Rescue Firefighter/Paramedic

Years in Profession: 19 years

Being a firefighter and paramedic means so much to me. From waving at the small child at the red light or helping a grandmother who needs help off the floor to installing smoke detectors or crawling into your burning home on Independence Day, I get the opportunity to make a difference in the outcome of someone's day and perhaps assist in the continuation of someone’s life.

I am in this profession because in the world of Emergency Services, the harvest is plenty but the workers are few. Our normal days are usually the worst day of someone else’s life. My “why” is because if I don’t do it, who will? It’s up to us to ensure that someone will be there to answer the call. We have heard our whole lives, “here I am, send me.”

I love that each shift brings new opportunities and experiences. None of them have ever been the same regardless of the agency I have worked for. It always requires me to use the critical thinking skills I have acquired through training, education, and time in the field.

The most challenging thing about my career is balancing a non-traditional work schedule. Working 24 or 48 shifts has its advantages and disadvantages. There’s only a 1/3 chance you will be on shift but somehow the most important life events tend to fall on the days you are at work.

The thing I wish more people understood about being a first responder is the struggle we face fitting into society. The intensity of situations that we face forms a family outside of our own at home, due to that bond we tend to gravitate towards each other outside of work as well. There is something to be said about what we encounter day in and day out that links us all together. It’s hard to answer the age-old question of “what the worst thing you’ve ever seen” because we don’t want to relive it.