President Obama awarded the Medal of Valor to thirteen public safety officers at the White House. The Medal of Valor is awarded to public safety officers who have exhibited exceptional courage, regardless of personal safety, in an attempt to save or protect others from harm.
“Medals and ceremonies like today are important, but these aren’t enough to convey the true depth of our gratitude. Our words will be hollow if they’re not matched by deeds. So, our nation has a responsibility to support those who serve and protect us.” -President Obama
In his remarks, President Obama said their service reflects the “highest form of citizenship”:
“The men and women who run toward danger remind us with your courage and humility what the highest form of citizenship looks like. When you see students and commuters and shoppers at risk, you don’t see these civilians as strangers. You see them as part of your own family, your own community. The Scripture teaches us, you love your neighbor as yourself. And you put others’ safety before your own. In your proud example of public service, you remind us that loving our country means loving one another.”
He also discussed how he’s taking action to reform our criminal justice system to help ensure that public safety officers have the ability to enforce the law and keep their communities safe:
“And medals and ceremonies like today are important, but these aren’t enough to convey the true depth of our gratitude. Our words will be hollow if they’re not matched by deeds. So, our nation has a responsibility to support those who serve and protect us and keep our streets safe. We can show our respect by listening to you, learning from you, giving you the resources that you need to do the jobs. That’s the mission of our police task force, which brought together local law enforcement, civil rights and faith leaders, and community members to open dialogue and build trust and find concrete solutions that make your jobs safer. Our country needs that right now.
“We’re going to keep pushing Congress to move forward [in] a bipartisan way to make our criminal justice system fairer and smarter and more cost-effective, and enhance public safety and ensure the men and women in this room have the ability to enforce the law and keep their communities safe.
“A few minutes ago, I signed into law a package of bills to protect and honor our law enforcement officers, including one that will help state and local departments buy more bulletproof vests. Emerson once said, “there is always safety in valor.” The public safety officers we honor today give those words new meaning, for it’s your courage and quick thinking that gave us our safety.”
Read the stories of the Medal of Valor recipients.
Recipients of the 2013-2014 Medal of Valor:
- Officer Mario Gutierrez (Miami-Dade Police Department, FL) for bravery and composure while enduring a violent attack. Officer Gutierrez sustained multiple stab wounds while subduing a knife-wielding assailant who attempted to set off a massive gas explosion that could have resulted in multiple fatalities.
- Patrolman Louis Cioci (Johnson City Police Department, NY) for courageously resolving a volatile encounter with a gunman. After witnessing the murder of his fellow officer, Patrolman Cioci pursued and apprehended the gunman at a crowded hospital, thereby saving the lives of employees, patients, and visitors.
- Officers Jason Salas and Robert Sparks (Santa Monica Police Department, CA), and Captain Raymond Bottenfield (Santa Monica College Police Department, CA) for courage and composure in ending a deadly rampage. Officer Salas, Officer Sparks, and Captain Bottenfield placed themselves in mortal danger to save the lives of students and staff during a school shooting on the busy campus of Santa Monica College.
- Major David Huff (Midwest City Police Department, OK) for uncommon poise in resolving a dangerous hostage situation. Major Huff saved the life of a two-year-old girl after negotiations deteriorated with a man holding the child captive at knife point.
- Officer Donald Thompson (Los Angeles Police Department, CA) for courageous action to save an accident victim. While off-duty, Officer Thompson traversed two freeway dividers and endured first- and second-degree burns while pulling an unconscious man to safety from a car moments before it became engulfed in flames.
- Officer Coral Walker (Omaha Police Department, NE) for taking brave and decisive action to subdue an active shooter. After exchanging gunfire, Officer Walker single-handedly incapacitated a man who had killed and injured multiple victims on a shooting spree.
Recipients of the 2014-2015 Medal of Valor:
- Officer Gregory Stevens (Garland Police Department, TX) for demonstrating extraordinary courage to save lives. Officer Stevens exchanged gunfire at close range and subdued two heavily-armed assailants preventing a mass shooting.
- Fallen Sergeant Robert Wilson III (Philadelphia Police Department, PA) for giving his life to protect innocent civilians. Sergeant Wilson put himself in harm’s way during an armed robbery, drawing fire from the assailants and suffering a mortal wound as he kept store employees and customers safe.
- Officer Niel Johnson (North Miami Police Department, FL) for swift and valorous action to end a violent crime spree. Officer Johnson pursued a man who had shot a Miami police officer and two other innocent bystanders, withstanding fire from an assault weapon, and apprehended the assailant.
- Special Agent Tyler Call (Federal Bureau of Investigation) for his heroic actions to save a hostage. Special Agent Call, who was off duty with his family, helped rescue a woman from her ex-husband who had violated a restraining order and held the victim at gunpoint.
- Deputy Joey Tortorella (Niagara County Sheriff’s Office, NY) for placing himself in grave danger to protect his community. Deputy Tortorella confronted and subdued a volatile gunman who had shot and wounded his parents inside their home and by doing so prevented the gunman from threatening the safety of students at a nearby elementary school.