Just the Facts

County chaplains name First Responder of the Year

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Deena Bouknight

No matter what time of the day or night, volunteer chaplains in Macon County work alongside first responders to provide prayer, comfort, debriefing and more. Recently, three current Macon County chaplains, Revs. Bonnie Peggs, Davis Hooper, and Danny Antoine, individually came to a consensus that N.C. State Trooper Michael Gerra should receive the “First Responder of the Year” award.

According to the criteria, the award is presented to “officers, deputies, firefighters, EMS, state troopers, and dispatchers who go above and beyond the call of duty.”

Gerra, who is a senior trooper, is also a field training officer.

ATTENDING AN award presentation for “First Responder of the Year” was (from left) N.C. State Trooper Brody Crawford, Rev. Bonnie Peggs, recipient N.C. State Trooper Michael Gerra, Rev. Danny Antoine and Rev. Davis Hooper.

“Due to his desire to serve and his supportive personality, he is considered one of the leaders in our district,” said Peggs. “He has numerous commendations on file regarding his attitude and professionalism.”

Gerra, a state trooper for the past five years, has also been a volunteer with the Franklin Fire Department since 2013 and continues to serve in that role.

“I just try to treat everyone equally and with respect, no matter if they are the victim or the suspect,” said Gerra.

“Michael always gives the extra effort to ensure that he is giving his best to the community of Macon County,” said Peggs, a chaplain for 16 years. “We have 220 first responders in Macon County,” she added, “and most go above and beyond, but there are always a few who go above and beyond that, and Michael is one of those.”

Each of the three chaplains, who have worked together for three years, was given nomination forms for “First Responder of the Year” and they did not communicate with one another to determine their choice. Yet, each unequivocally chose Gerra.

All three chaplains for Macon County first responders are certified in critical stress management. Peggs pointed out that additional individuals may become certified in 2024 and join the current three-person chaplaincy.

“We always appreciate the chaplains being there,” said Gerra.

Davis, a chaplain in different capacities since the 1970s as well as a current volunteer fireman, pointed out about first responders, “They see all kinds of stuff … some suffer from PTSD. We go onto a scene and are with individuals for the first 10 minutes or so. And then afterwards, 24 to 48 hours later, we are there to provide debriefing for anyone who needs it.”

“Chaplains are invaluable,” said Gerra. “They take the initiative to help.”