A Havelock Fire and Rescue Department member has received state and national awards from the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Firefighter/paramedic Charles M. Winter received the VFW State Gold Medal and the VFW National Firefighter Award on Friday during an informal ceremony at the West End Fire Station. Thomas Toler, VFW fourth district commander, presented the awards to Winter for his role in rescuing a 2-year-old boy from a house fire.
“Winter is truly a role model to all firefighters and this honor reflects the proudest ideals of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States,” the national citation reads.
“It makes me feel good and I feel good for the fire department, too.” Winter said of the honors. “It’s an accomplishment. It brings something to the fire department that everybody can kind of stand back and enjoy.”
Winter, 34, has been with the department for more than a decade. He was the recipient of the N.C. Gold Lifesaving Medal in June of 2013.
The awards stem from an April 23, 2013, fire in which Winter rescued then 2-year-old Dylan Burkett from a Pineview Street home that was fully engulfed. With the aid of police and bystanders, Winter went headfirst into a side window of the burning building and, after a brief search through the smoky interior, found the child sitting on a bed. Burkett was handed to fellow firefighter Megan Lashway and made a full recovery after a short stay in the hospital. The fire destroyed the home.
“This all kind of stems from that call. It’s not just Charlie but the whole department,” said Assistant Chief Steve Coffey. “Obviously Charlie was the one that pulled him out, but there were a lot of other people doing things at the same time, but we’re absolutely proud of him and everybody. It just kind of shows the dedication and commitment that our folks have for eastern Craven County.”
Winter said he often thinks about the day of the fire.
“I’ve got a picture hanging up in my house of me and Dylan,” said Winter. “It’s a good feeling.”
Saving a life is one of the premier accomplishments for a firefighter, he said.
“It’s going to be hard to get past that one,” Winter said.
He said the rescue ranks at the top in his career.
“I’ve helped a lot of people on a lot of ambulance calls all the time, but as far as fires go, this is the biggest fire accomplishment that I’ve had so far,” Winter said.
The firefighter said he is often recognized while working or when he’s just out in town. He said he has run into the boy’s mother a few times as well.
“It’s always a smile and a wave and a ‘How are you?’ I think it’s one of those things where we don’t have to say anything to each other,” Winter said. “It’s just one of those things where a smile is good enough for us, I think.”
Winter said it’s not about the awards.
“It’s kind of like I didn’t ask for them, but they are very much appreciated. More so I am just happy for the recognition of the fire department,” he said. “I’m happy to be doing what I’m doing and going to keep on going to see what else we can get done.”
Winter has two daughters, Paige and Anais Winter, and is engaged to be married to Carey Tuttle.