A broken jaw and a near-miss with an out-of-control car aren’t enough to keep 76-year-old John Campbell away.
A longtime volunteer with the emergency management agencies in Howard and Cass counties, Campbell has seen his share of danger, but he’s not quitting.
“I love this,” he said. “I don’t plan on retiring anytime soon.”
His service began in Cass County in 1982. After nine years there and then retiring from Chrysler, he signed up with the Howard County agency.
In 2006, while directing traffic at an accident scene, Campbell’s car was struck, sending him to Methodist Hospital for four days with a broken jaw, facial lacerations and internal injuries.
Three months later, Campbell was back volunteering with EMA.
“It gets in your blood,” he said.
Campbell said he didn’t join “to play cops and robbers.” The training offered in Howard County, he said, is designed to keep the volunteers and the public safe.
“In Howard County, the agency works closely with the sheriff’s department and other agencies,” he said.
Howard County EMA director Larry Smith is looking for more people like Campbell who feel called to help their community. The agency is accepting applications for volunteers to serve with the police, fire and rescue departments, Smith said.
“They volunteer their time to give back to the community and to learn,” he said. “Right now, we’re looking for more EMTs and ambulance drivers.”
It’s an ideal opportunity for younger people interested in a career in law enforcement to learn if the job is meant for them, he said.
“We train them to a certain point,” he said. “They are then able to get hired by local agencies. We’ve had volunteers go to work for Kokomo, Howard County, Indiana State Police and FBI.”
For William Tygart, 65, serving with the EMA is about carrying on a family tradition. His father, mother, uncle, aunt, two brothers-in-law and cousins have all served.
Tygart served with the EMA fire department for 45 years, with more than two decades as chief until health issues forced him to relinquish the role.
“I had no interest in joining the Kokomo Fire Department,” he said. “I was satisfied with where I was at. If not for my health, I would still be in it.”
Tygart said there were good times and bad. One of the worst came at the scene of an accident.
“I remember once there was a car that drove off a bridge,” he recalled. “As they pulled the car from the water, we saw a doll and baby shoe. We thought there was a baby in the car. We learned the baby was not with the family.
“It still bothers me,” Tygart said.
And even though he had times where he had to leave his family to go on a run, he said the good outweighed the bad.
“I enjoyed every minute of it,” he said. “This is a good place to me. There is nothing bad I can say about it.”
Last year, volunteers like Tygart and Campbell provided 20,000 hours of their time. That donation of time, Smith explained, helped other agencies and, ultimately, helped save tax dollars.
“There is a lengthy training period,” he said. “The volunteers are cross-trained between departments so they can help where assistance is needed.”
Members of the EMA police, fire and emergency medical services are all qualified for the level of the job they do and certified by the state if required.
Smith said Howard County has more volunteers and equipment than any other EMA in the state.
“We work together with the other agencies in a professional manner,” he said. “We teach our volunteers the right thing to do.”
And to help those who give their time, Smith says a simple acknowledgment is in order.
“All they want is a thank-you once in a while,” Smith said. “A cup of coffee, a cold drink or a sandwich.”
• Ken de la Bastide is the Kokomo Tribune enterprise editor. He can be reached at 765-454-8580 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org