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Service aims for inspiration, healing

The Rev. Jerry Waugh wanted to have a special Veterans Day service since it was falling on Sunday, the Christian Sabbath.

And because the day also commemorated the two-month anniversary of the terrorist acts in New York City, Washington, D.C., and southeastern Pennsylvania, "I started thinking about our veterans and firefighters and police (officers) in New York and felt we really needed to do something special," said Waugh.

Coincidentally, a member of the congregation gave Waugh a book to read: Sirens For The Cross, by firefighter Tommy Neiman. After reading Neiman's personal testimonials, the pastor of Northcliffe Baptist Church asked him to be a guest speaker for Sunday's events.

In response to Waugh's wish to recognize not only veterans of all the wars fought by America's men and women, but also local firefighters and rescue teams as well, a number of Spring Hill firefighters also will attend.

A special offering will include a rendition of America the Beautiful by Beth Olsen. Olsen, a member of the choir for 16 years, said although the words and the tunes are the same, "it's not the typical version. It's not out of the hymnal, but kind of a contemporary, soul version."

The congregation and guests also will be treated to the adult choir's salute to the armed forces, which will include a patriotic medley of songs associated with each branch of the armed forces: Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard.

Probably a brand new delight to the congregation and guests will be a presentation by the stick ministry. "It is part of the puppet ministry," said director Kathie Watson.

It is somewhat like sign language done with 3-foot rods.

"We don't do letters," said Watson. "We do symbols."

For example, to sign the name Jesus, the team simply puts one rod horizontally in front of the other held vertically, symbolizing a cross.

The closing song by the 15 participants, using red, white and blue sticks, will be God Bless the USA, after which the group will end with the rods portraying the American flag.

At 6 p.m., a patriotic concert will feature the Southeastern College Quartet.

Featured speaker Tommy Neiman, a Florida firefighter/paramedic with the St. Lucie Fire District in Fort Pierce, will honor all firefighters, emergency rescuers and law enforcement officers present at the service.

Neiman also will share stories, as he appears in full uniform, of his 15 years' experience in the field and give testimony to God's presence at emergency scenes.

After Neiman's department was featured

on Rescue 911 three times, he began to share similar calls. In addition to communicating the love of Jesus Christ to many other firefighters, he has spoken at churches around the country.

His book offers 15 inspirational stories of fire and rescue calls that Neiman believes reveal the powerful and loving presence of God.

He is the pastor of Okeechobee Road Baptist Chapel, president of the Treasure Coast Chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Fighters and regional director for the Fellowship of Christian Firefighters, International.

The ceremonies will close with the fourth verse of My Country Tis of Thee.

Neiman was one of 12 firefighter/chaplains who recently gave out urns and American flags to families of victims of the bombings of the World Trade Center. He ministered to many New York firefighters at ground zero, which Neiman's Web site reads "affectionately known as "Ground Hero."'

Waugh said he is hoping that "Tommy _ someone who just got back from ground zero, will be part of the healing process for those of us in Hernando County. I hope it will help heal the hurt."