By Brian Livingston / email@example.com
The Meridian Star
Along the nine mile length of Highway 15 that connects Decatur with Union, residents and volunteer fire department personnel Wednesday afternoon formed in groups to bid farewell to Greenfield Volunteer Fire Department Chief Mickey L. Yates.
Gathered around fire engines with flashing lights and standing out on their front lawns holding American Flags, people wanted to show their gratitude to a man who for more than two decades devoted his time and energies to helping others in need and who had a major role in developing a first class fire department that residents could depend on answering the call when they were in danger.
In Decatur, at the major intersection that bisects the downtown area with Highway 15, more people, law enforcement, fire departments, city and county personnel, and state agencies such as MDOT, spread out along the route that would lead to Yates' final resting place at Sandy Springs Cemetery on Highway 503 South. Jenna Watson stood in the sweltering heat with a small American Flag she said she had left over from the Fourth of July.
"I didn't know him," said Watson, wiping away yet another bead of sweat that had formed on her brow. "I read about the wreck in the paper and saw where he was a volunteer firefighter. He was going to help someone when he died. I think he ought to get a medal but this is all I can do for him and I'm glad to do it."
Situated in the front of the procession that turned onto Highway 503 from Decatur, the sparkling red fire engine, one Yates had most likely driven to countless wrecks and structure fires in the past, carried him south. In the wake of the engine were other fire engines with their red lights flashing that contrasted with the blue lights of law enforcement units and the yellows from city and county vehicles.
At the cemetery site, the Mississippi State Fire Academy Honor Guard from Pearl waited patiently while members of the Greenfield Volunteer Fire Department carefully eased the flag draped casket off the top of the fire engine. In the background the melancholy notes from a Scottish bagpipe accompanied the slow walk up to the final resting place.
Ginger Hand, of the Meridian Fire Department, performed the ceremonial bell ringing. The bell ceremony and Firefighter's Prayer are two important firefighter traditions aimed at showing respect to those who gave their life in the line of duty. Five rings of the bell three times signals the end of the emergency and return to quarters.
The Honor Guard then removed, folded and presented the American Flag to Yates' widow, Karla Yates. That was followed by the presentation of Yates' fire helmet to his youngest of seven children, his son Brandon Yates.