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East Syracuse firefighter first to receive 'Red Jacket' award

Seventy-three year fire veteran Bill Lewis was told to wear full uniform to the East Syracuse fire station May 6. Friends in the department told him he would be involved in a march. Lewis, though, didn't feel up for a long walk.

"I said I was a little tired today, I might ride in the truck but I don't think I'd march," Lewis said at his awards event, after he found out the true motive behind the dress attire. "I knew something was up when I walked in here and saw my family."

On the second floor in the East Syracuse courtroom located next to the fire station, stood colleagues and fire officials ready to celebrate Lewis' accomplishments in a groundbreaking ceremony.

Lewis was the first person to receive the Red Jacket Distinction Award sponsored by the Onondaga County Volunteer Fire Association based in Solvay. The award acclaims members who exceed their own membership requirements; recipients are chosen by their peers.

"This is pretty important," said Mike Cramer, East Syracuse fire chief. "Even though we're from all different departments, it means a lot that it came here first. You guys are what make it happen."

Cramer thanked Lewis, on behalf of the entire department, for his dedicated years of service.

Roger Spraker, OCVFA president, and Manny Falcone, OCVFA vice president, presented Lewis with a proclamation, plaque and gift certificate courtesy of Jerome Fire Equipment.

"I'm very proud of my grandfather," said Laurie Djonovich. "I'm glad he's being recognized for all he's done and continues to do."

Annual Syracuse event

The OCVFA and the Sheriff's department will hold a short public ceremony as a tribute to the men and women in both departments at 10 a.m. Saturday May 17 outside the Justice Center, at the Palladium Monument, in Syracuse. The monument was built for the remembrance of all EMS personnel that have given their lives in the line of duty. It is represented by the OCVFA, fire chiefs, fire police, fire districts, Ladies' Auxiliary and Onondaga County Sheriff's Department. Syracuse officials will be in attendance at the ceremony.

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