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Loudoun’s everyday heroes

police, fire, EMS, LoudounTimes-Mirror Staff Photo/Beverly Denny Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman presents a lifesaving award to Deputy Matthew Vess during the 2013 Valor Awards April 5 for preventing a woman’s suicide. Loudoun County Fire, Rescue and Emergency Management Chief Keith Brower applauds at left.
They are the stories that happen every day.

Police, fire and EMS putting their lives on the line to save others.

Many go unnoticed, except by the people whose lives they save.

But April 5, the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce let the county's uniformed men and women know what they do matters, giving out 66 Valor Awards at the 28th annual ceremony to various deputies, officers, firefighters, EMTs and even some citizens for bravery in the line of duty.

"I'm extremely proud of our Sheriff's Office and the people that really do this every day. You never know when a situation is going to evolve that takes really outstanding, heroic action. And to see what these individuals did when they were confronted with situations like that really is encouraging to us all," said Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman.

A team of four Loudoun County Sheriff's deputies who saved a driver from a burning overturned tanker truck in Leesburg in late August.

Ten Leesburg Police Officers who worked to save the life of a suicidal man in January 2012.

A Loudoun County deputy who stopped a young woman from jumping off an overpass bridge – only moments before she stepped off the concrete.

Two workers at a pediatrician’s office that worked together to perform CPR on a co-worker after she collapsed until Loudoun Fire and Rescue crews arrived on scene.

Twenty-three volunteer and career firefighter and EMTS who pulled a man from rising waters as Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on Loudoun County.

These are just some of the stories played out in 2012.

"I think a ceremony like this is very important, not just for the recipients but also for the community so they have a clear picture of the many dangers and activities that public safety people face every day. And clearly they're not doing it for the money or for this type of recognition. They do it because it's their calling and because there are people in need and they are there to help," said Leesburg Police Chief Joe Price.

'The rear of the tanker is on fire'

It was 5:30 a.m. in late August when Loudoun deputy Raymond Gessner saw a tanker truck overturn and slide another 50 yards, hitting the guardrail on the Dulles Greenway. Within minutes, the contents of the truck began to spill out, causing the back to catch fire.

As the truck's driver screamed for help, deputies frantically tried to find him, scared he was trapped inside. Deputies were instructed to stay away from the truck, fearful of what was spilling onto the road and an explosion.

In the meantime, Deputy Randall Stackpole arrived on scene and saw the truck's driver laying outside, pleading for help. Unaware of the fire, Stackpole, despite warnings to stay back, rushed to the driver and asked for help in moving him from the danger.

Stackpole, Gessner. Sgt. Joesph Salamida and Deputy Specialist Erik Dimas carried the driver, who was suffering from a compound fracture to his left femur and profuse bleeding, away from the truck. In addition, Dimas positioned his cruiser to shield his colleagues from a possible explosion.

The four were honored with a Certificate of Valor for their heroic actions.

A close call

It was at the end of his shift on May 18 when Loudoun deputy Matthew Burke Vess noticed a young woman climb out on the overpass bridge on the Dulles Greenway.

Vess, recognizing a deadly situation, drove over the median and quickly ran to the woman's rescue. The deputy called out to the woman and as she turned he grabbed her arm and pulled her to safety.

"Just a foot or two of distance was the difference between a successful suicide attempt and the deputy's ability to pull her back," read Vess' write-up for his Lifesaving Award.

Earlier that year, in January, 10 Leesburg Police officers were faced with an even deadlier situation when a man in the 400 block of Foxridge Drive barricaded himself inside his home, threatening suicide with a gun to his head while two children slept unknowingly in an upstairs bedroom.

The officers kept their composure and were able to talk the man down, even after he walked outside his home with a loaded gun pointed at his head.

For their courage, Sgt. Michael Buracker, Officers Joey Marsten, Alex Hilton, Chris Parker, Brian Church, Chris Mongelluzzo, Jordan Helmer, Carl Ford and Master Police Officer Matt Ash received a Unit Citation.

Quick thinking

It was a typical work day in early January for Gail Zill and Lisa Franklin at an Ashburn pediatric office. Suddenly, their co-worker and good friend Patricia McMillen, 65, collapsed.

While they waited for fire and EMS crews to arrive, Zill and Franklin took turns performing CPR on McMillen.

When members of Engine 623 arrived they found McMillen was not showing signs of life.

The crew quickly took over and restarted CPR with a defibrillator attached to McMillen.

After a few minutes, McMillen regained consciousness. She was on-hand at the April 5 ceremony to congratulate her lifesavers.

For their actions, Zill and Franklin received the Citizen's Award. In addition, the crews that worked to save McMillen, Capt. Micah Kiger, Lts. Richard Cooper and Mark Wynkoop, firefighters Joshua Bentz and James Elliott and technicians Nicholas Hildebrand, Christopher Turner and Christopher Grubb were honored with the Lifesaving Award.

"Thanks to the quick-thinking and heroic actions of her co-workers, coupled with the efficient delivery of additional care by the emergency medical crews, Patricia McMillen survived this incident and made a full recovery," the write-up for the awards said.

Others honored included:
Citizen's Award:
• Dr. Julie Lewerenz
• Jade Sanders, RN
• Melanie Burrier, RN
• Karen Roberts-Gaither
• Donald Roberts

Meritorious Action
• Loudoun Senior Firefighter Jeff Piedmont

Lifesaving Award
• Firefighter Tracy Lane
• Firefighter Chris Turnbow
• Technician Lindsay Jacobs
• Fire Capt. Micah Kiger
• Firefighter Dillon Huss
• Firefighter Zach Webster
• Firefighter Katelyn Wenner
• Fire Lt. Thomas Clappi
• Firefighter Tim Keane
• Firefighter Troy Gittings
• Firefighter Michael Helmstetter
• Loudoun First Lt. Gary Gaither

Silver Medal of Valor
• Fire Capt. Michael Burrier
• Fire Capt. Jody Marker
• Fire Lt. Chris Thomas

Unit Citation
• EMT-I Maggie Barry
• Firefighter Donald Cline
• Firefighter Jason Dice
• Firefighter William Dunn
• Technician Brent Emerson
• Technician Shawn Fluharty
• Fire Lt. Brandon Frieder
• Fire Capt. Rodney Frye
• EMT-B CJ Gallagher
• Firefighter Brady Harden
• Fire Lt. Jeff Johnson
• Rescue Chief Rodney Krone Jr.
• Fire Capt. Robert Leeper
• Firefighter Robert Lemon
• Fire Lt. Matthew Murphy
• Battalion Chief Michael Nally
• Nicole Nedela
• EMT-B Haydon Pitchford
• Chief Anthony Schloss
• Technician Alex Szuchnicki
• EMT-B Maggie Wade
• Chief Pete West
• Firefighter Conor Wright


God bless our first responders.  I hope and pray that the desperate individuals who were rescued from suicide are able to find the help and support they need.

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