When natural disaster strikes, a community's first line of defense to combat the catastrophe are its first responders.

On Thursday, Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler and other leaders of the community gathered to honor those first responders who stepped up and took heroic action during what could be considered the worst natural disaster to strike the county on the week of Aug. 6.

Hartzler first thanked Emergency Coordinator Lawson Smith, presiding county commissioner Gene Newkirk, Waynesville Mayor Luge Harman and St. Robert Mayor George Sanders for their leadership.

She then thanked the dozens of firefighters, police officers, highway patrolmen, paramedics, and other first responders who were on the front lines of the flood.

"I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciated your selfless service," she said. " I think you really put a picture and an image to what that terminology means — selfless service — the hours that you put in to keep citizens safe here to help them and respond with not only your skills, but your heart. You made a difference in thousands of peoples lives."

Hardman also commended the group first responders.

" I can tell you within a week [after the flood], you had to look hard to see where everything bad was still happening and that says a lot about our community," she said. "And it says a lot for all of you. This is the most impressive group of people you can ever be around."

Hartzler said that she is proud of the community for coming together during a crisis and volunteering their time.

As of Thursday, 1,188 volunteers have committed more than 7,000 hours since the flood struck the county on Aug. 6.

"I think they have really set the standard for the rest of the country about what community support means in a crisis – how pulling together and reaching out and helping your neighbor can make such a huge difference," she said. "I'm just so proud of every person here and I'm so proud that I get to serve them in Washington."

Hartzler siad that she is glad Gov. Nixon completed the assessment of the area, declaring Pulaski and 13 other counties a disaster area. The governor requested that the declared disaster areas receive public and individual assistance.

Hartzler, along with several other members of Missouri's Congressional District, wrote a letter asking President Barack Obama to approve Gov. Nixon's request. Hartzler said she thinks the process takes around one to two months to receive approval.

"We will be advocating as soon as possible to expodite the process," Hartzler said.