Sussex Post 8 in Georgetown is one of only two American Legions in Delaware – and just a handful in the nation – to operate an ambulance service.
James Koutz, the national commander of The American Legion, said that’s one of the reasons he wanted to visit the post during his two-day tour of Delaware last week.
“It’s impressive to see an operation like this,” the Vietnam veteran from Indiana said during an hour-long stop in Georgetown on Friday morning. “I’ve only ever seen two other Posts run ambulances like they do here, and I think it’s great to see the veterans helping out in their community like this.”
Robert Perry, co-manager of the Georgetown Emergency Response Medical Services’ Station 93, provided Koutz with an overview of how the ambulance service has grown over the years and the challenges it faces in the future.
“The first ambulance we got was a 1966 Superior Cadillac that cost us $15,675 and we were all volunteers,” he said. “The last ambulance we bought, just last summer, cost us $187,000 without any equipment and at this time we have five full-time employees and 22 part-timers.”
In 1975, the ambulance service answered 993 calls, while today it averages more than 2,000 calls a year, which Perry said make Georgetown the busiest ambulance station in Sussex County during the non-summer months.
“That puts a big burden on us financially,” he said. “We basically have to beg for money throughout the year, although we do get a lot of support from state, the Sussex County Commissioners and the town of Georgetown, too.”
Administrator Lisa Fensick explained the finer points of the ambulance crews’ state mandated training requirements and showed off one of the station’s most-treasured mementos: a leather fire helmet from the New York City Fire Department.
“In 2003, the ambulance crew became friends with the Whitmores, a new couple in town who moved here from New York,” she said. “Mrs. Whitmore passed away in 2004 and we started getting a lot of calls for Mr. Whitmore, a retired fire captain whose nickname was Dragon. He would tell us stories about what it was like being a firefighter in New York and he really had a lot of respect for the dedication of our crews.”
After Whitmore died in 2011, his daughter donated her father’s fire helmet to the station, where it remains on permanent display.
“I love that we could come here and hear stories like this, about what you go through, and I really appreciate what you do,” Koutz said.
Delaware Commander James Brady said he was happy the national commander got to see what veterans in The American Legion are doing here in the First State.
“We’re very proud of what the folks at Post 8 do for the community,” he said. “The average person has no conception of the amount of time and effort it takes to put a program like this together and make it function.”
Post 8 Commander Rowland Scott said he also was thrilled that Koutz took the time to visit Georgetown.
“It’s a real honor to me, and I know it’s a real honor for our ambulance service,” he said.