CLEARWATER — Two words riddled the 911 Honor Service at Lakeside Baptist Church that law enforcement, fire fighters and other public servants may not hear often: thank you.


The service, in its fifth year at Lakeside Baptist, shared that sentiment with every public safety officer and sheriff’s deputy, firefighter, EMT and paramedic, highway patrolman, every U.S. Marshal and every elected representative that attended Sunday while the congregation and Pastor Tad Marshall demonstrated their appreciation for all that the agencies do to serve the community.


“We just want to stop and say, ‘Thank you.’ Your commitment has spilled over into the average citizens’ lives with neighbor helping neighbor, friend helping friend, even stranger helping stranger,” Marshall said.


No less than 20 law enforcement, fire and first responder agencies were represented – such as Aiken Public Safety, the Aiken County Sheriff’s Office, Capital City Ambulance and the New Holland Fire Department – as well as many local elected officials, including S.C. District 81 Rep. Tom Young, District 84 Rep. Roland Smith, District 86 Rep. Bill Taylor, S.C. District 25 Sen. Shane Massey and Ronnie Young, chairman of Aiken County Council.


Each thanked Lakeside Baptist Church for honoring the men and women of law enforcement and public safety, especially a gentleman representing the Fire Department of New York City, who was grateful the church was honoring the 343 firefighters lost in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.


“It’s nice to be told thank you,” said Jennifer Pearson, a six-year officer with the Burnettown Police Department.


Special attention was paid to six area law enforcement officers who died in the past year: Richmond County Deputy Sheriff J.D. Paugh; Aiken Master Public Safety Officer Scotty Richardson; Public Safety Master Cpl. Sandy Rogers; and Capt. Tommy Cox, Sgt. Boise Davis, and Chief Jack Tudor, all with the Augusta-Richmond County Fire Department.


The congregation was silent as a bell was rung in the sanctuary in their memories. The families of Richardson and Rogers were in attendance.


“We salute you. We love you and miss you,” said SRS firefighter Chris Alverson, who helped plan the honor service.


Marshall said that, despite the tragedies in the past year, God is a good god.


“You, as a law enforcement community, have gone through the truly unthinkable. Yet somehow you have chosen to stand up and go on. We admire you. Fire fighters, you have the strength to go into a fire when people are trying to leave a fire. EMTs, you show your professionalism by responding. You all have been affected even more than others because that (Richardson, Rogers, Paugh, etc.) was your family,” Marshall said.


Joe Carlton, a member of Lakeside Baptist, said the service makes him think every year of exactly what law enforcement, fire fighters, EMTs and paramedics do.


“That’s what you need to appreciate – they’re out there serving the people. Truthfully, they’re doing their job. We need to give respect where respect is due,” he said.