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31 graduate from firefighting recruit class

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Thirty men and one woman received their badges Friday evening and were welcomed into their new, extended firefighting family during a ceremony at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center.

Basic Firefighting Recruit Class 2009-02, a class that leaders say excelled in every aspect of training, was graduated and its members will begin their official firefighting careers today.

Gwinnett fire spokesman Capt. Thomas Rutledge said firefighters will be stationed at firehouses across the county, filling positions vacated by recent retirements.

In the first standing-room-only crowd Fire Chief Bill Myers remembers in 26 years of attending graduations, he recounted the contents of a letter he recently received regarding an emergency call his department responded to.

It came from a woman who lost her husband of 60 years, thanking the department for its compassion and help in getting her through the most devastating time of her life.

"That," Meyers said, "is the difference between doing a job and answering a calling."

Special guest speaker Ray Mattison, Gwinnett's first-ever fire chief and current chief of the Winder Fire Department, urged Gwinnett's newest firefighters to always keep their heads full of knowledge, their hearts full of compassion.

"What a road you're about to travel," Mattison said. "You are each a special person performing a special task."

Firefighter Kevin Lamb summed up what was a recurring theme throughout the ranks, throughout the evening.

"This job isn't about us, it's about the people we serve," he said.

Several awards were handed out, including:

* Physical fitness award given to Corey Bowles

* Academic award given to Jessica Pazinets

* Core values award given to Kevin Lamb

* Top rung award given to David Klein