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VFW award winners (from left) Mark Kennon, Molly Martin, Keith Benfield, Paige Cassady and Randy Young pose with their certificates.

REIDSVILLE — When Randy Young and his Rockingham County EMS partner, Tasha Pruitt, responded to a 2019 bus wreck involving 18 children and two adults, it was their training that guided them.

In a little over one hour, they triaged and transported all 20 patients.

Prior to that, the pair answered a call where a 14-day-old child was not breathing. They regained the child’s pulse and saved her life.

On March 13, Young was one of four Rockingham County service personnel who were recognized for dedicating their lives to helping others. They were honored by the Midway/Monroeton VFW Post 8297 and Auxiliary.

Also recognized was the second-place Patriot’s Pen winner Molly Martin, who was not present during the February presentation for those awards.

“I want to personally thank you for what you do for our county,” VFW Commander Bobby Jones told the honorees at the end of the presentation ceremony.

Young was named Emergency Medical Services Paramedic of the year. He is a single parent of an 18-year-old daughter, Mariah, who attends the Western Carolina University nursing program.

After he graduated in 2003 from George Washington High School in Danville, Va., Young worked as a corrections officer at Caswell County Correctional Facility before taking a position at Dan Chem. He then worked at Stone Ambulance Service in Martinsville, Va.

In 2009, Randy enrolled in the paramedic program at Rockingham Community College (RCC) and graduated in 2011. He was hired by Rockingham County EMS in September of that year.

For 13 years, Young volunteered with Mt. Cross (Danville) fire department as firefighter, EMT, captain and chief. He is certified in several fields, working toward N.C. OEMS Level I Instructor certification, and is trained in more than 10 areas of his field.

Young said he hopes to continue his career at EMS for the next 20 years and wants to advance into a leadership role in the near future.

“It was definitely an honor and privilege,” he said of his award. “There were several people I definitely felt like deserved it, so it really was an honor to get it.”

After already being named Monroeton Volunteer Fire Department Firefighter of the Year by her peers, Reidsville native Paige Cassady was honored again March 13 as the VFW’s Firefighter of the Year.

The young woman joined the Monroeton department as a junior firefighter when she was 16, said Chief Richard Wyrick in his letter of recommendation. Cassady said she aged out of playing recreational softball and was looking for something to do to “help people in the community,” so she decided to become a junior firefighter. That naturally led her to her career decision.

On March 11, she became a firefighter with the Reidsville Fire Department. Cassady said she is the only firefighter in her family.

“Some of the training is fairly strenuous on the body and I’m short so physical parts were really straining,” she said. During training, the 150-pounder was required to drag a 190-pound dummy for 75-100 feet.

“It was difficult the first couple of times,” said Cassady, adding that she soon adapted to it.

“It was apparent early on that she was dedicated to learning as much as she could and she strives every day to become better at the job,” Wyrick said.

When she graduated in 2018 from Oak Level Baptist Academy, Cassady enrolled at Guilford Technical Community College fire academy. She also earned her N.C. EMT certification.

“Paige is a member that we know we can always count on,” Wyrick said. “She is always there on training nights, work details, and whenever she’s available to respond to incidents.

“She exhibits professional knowledge and character at all times. She works well with others and has always remained calm in any situation.”

She is the daughter of Kevin and Tracy Cassady of Reidsville.

“It was an honor,” Cassady said. And, “standing in front of people (to accept the award) was a lot harder than tackling a burning building.”

Earning the Law Enforcement Officer of the Year was Madison Police Department Corp. Keith Benfield. He started his career with the department in September 2014 after completing his five years of service in the U.S. Marines. He was with the 3rd Battalion 6th Marine and served at Camp Lejeune with an eight-month deployment to Afghanistan.

“Corp. Benfield has been a very productive and proactive member of the departments,” said Chief Mike Weatherford in submitting Benfield’s application. “He has always been near the top of the department in on-view arrests and citations.”

A native of Patrick County, Va., Benfield moved to Rockingham County in 2013 shortly after marrying Madison native Jordan Rortvedt. He enrolled in RCC’s basic law enforcement training and immediately was sworn in as a Madison officer after graduating.

Late last year, Benfield was chosen to be the handler of Lt. Dan, the department’s narcotics/tracking dog that will be coming on board with the department on Monday.

He and his wife have two daughters, Averee, 8, and Vylan, 5, with a son, Tucker, due in July.

Benfield learned of the award the day before he was recognized.

“It was a surprise,” Benfield said. “I am very grateful and appreciative.”

Sheriff’s department Lt. Mark H. Kennon Sr. was named deputy of the year.

After graduating in 1984 from Rockingham County Senior High School, Kennon enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, serving most of his six years as a field radio operator at Twenty-Nine Palms, Calif. He completed his military career in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves and was honorably discharged in early 1990.

He enrolled in RCC basic law enforcement training course in August 1996 and was later sworn in as a deputy with the sheriff’s department. He has been a reserve deputy, dispatcher, patrol deputy, K-9 handler, patrol corporal, and patrol sergeant and lieutenant.

In January 2019, Kennon transferred to the criminal investigations division, handling the day-to-day operations of the division.

He and his wife, the former Amy Barber of Danville, Va., have a daughter and three sons. His oldest son, Hampton, followed in his father’s footsteps, becoming a North Carolina Highway Patrol trooper assigned to Guilford County nearly three years ago.

“It’s always good to be recognized,” Kennon said. “Every day we have officers who do great things and it could have been any officer here.”

Reidsville native Ann Fish has lived in Eden since 1979. Contact her at annsomersfish@yahoo.com.

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