More than 100 Loudoun civil servants recognized at annual Valor Awards
Organized by the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce, 107 people received awards -- 87 emergency first responders and 20 civilians. The local servants came from all backgrounds, from public safety personnel to ordinary citizens, but they all had one thing in common: the commitment to go above and beyond the call of duty.
Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) Christopher Ritz was one of those honored. Ritz, along with Loudoun County Rescue Squad colleagues Lt. Michael Behret, David Eaves, Lauren Hunt, Brandon Ferguson, Jeremy See and Daniel Turner, was dispatched to a report of an incapacitated man on the Appalachian Trial on a cold, foggy night around 1:30 a.m.
After parking their ambulance, the crew hiked two and a half miles up the trail in the dark -- equipment in tow -- and found the man, who had recently suffered a stroke. While waiting for additional help, the crew started a campfire to lessen the risk of hypothermia. Knowing the trail would take 90 minutes to navigate back to the waiting ambulance, the crew used their familiarity of the area to plan a shorter route through the woods and into a nearby housing development.
Ritz said it was a natural decision to carry the equipment and proceed on foot.
The crew was given a Unit Citation Valor Award for demonstrating “unusual judgment, zeal, ingenuity and bravery."
“I'm ecstatic, I actually got the award before I was even a member of my company for a year, so to be able to come in, getting all my training, and an award in my first year is great,” Ritz said.
It was April 4 last year when the Purcellville Police Department and the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office responded to a domestic incident involving a father and son. Corporal Paul Kakol and Deputy First Class Ryan Hamilton arrived at the same time.
They found the father badly hurt, lying on the kitchen floor with severe stab wounds to the neck and abdomen, along with burn marks. Medical aid was administered by both Kakol and Hamilton. The man's daughter advised them the suspect was still in the home. Sergeant Robert Wagner searched the house and found the suspect had left.
Off-duty Fairfax County Sheriff's Deputy Chris Loftis was returning home to Purcellville and had changed his radio frequency from the Fairfax County channel to a Loudoun channel and heard a lookout message for a highly emotional teenage male armed with a knife. Loftis soon located the suspect and took him into custody.
Hamilton and Kakol were awarded a Bronze Medal of Valor and Loftis and Wagner a Certificate of Valor.
Annika Pracher was one of 20 civilians honored. Just 17, Pracher was a passenger in her father's car as he was driving her to school. He began driving erratically and Pracher saw her dad was slumped over and non-responsive Their car crossed over three lanes of traffic, across a median, then over two lanes of oncoming traffic.
Pracher grabbed the wheel from her father and took his foot off the gas pedal, avoiding other vehicles in the process. She brought the car safely to a stop and her father was taken to hospital and diagnosed as suffering a heart attack.
The positive relationship fostered between the local community by a trio of deputies from the Loudoun Sheriff's Office was singled out for The Stu Plitman First Responder Community Service Award, an honor granted to those emergency first responders who demonstrate “the highest commitment to fostering positive relationships with the Loudoun community in ways that enhance the safety and security of our citizens.”
DFC Milton Castelle, DFC Victor LoPreto and DFC Dawn Taylor were praised for their “tireless efforts to address and raise awareness about the important issues within Loudoun communities.”
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