Eight local fire and police departments recognized the dedication and courage that their members possess and execute each and every day when the 2011 Joshua M. Freeman Valor Awards were presented to police officers and firefighters this past Friday, Feb. 11, at DiFebo’s Bistro on the Green at Bear Trap Dunes. Each local department nominated an officer or firefighter of the year, from which one individual was recognized with the ceremony’s top honor, the annual Joshua M. Freeman Valor Award.
“Heroes walk among us every day,” said Carrie Subity, executive director of the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce, the organization that introduced the award ceremony in 2004. “There are those who sacrifice their own safety to protect others around them. When that time comes for us to call on these people, for them to put their lives on the line, there is no real way to repay them.”
In 2007, the Valor Awards were renamed in memory of developer Joshua M. Freeman, who was killed in a helicopter crash in the winter of 2006.
Carl M. Freeman Companies Vice President Doug Brown took a moment last Friday to recognize Freeman at the event.
“It brings great pride to our chamber and community as we honor the local men and women who keep our communities safe,” he said. “Josh was good to so many who lived here in the community. He touched many lives and made our lives better by the good deeds he performed. He had such a huge impact in the short time he was here with us.”
Members of the Chamber have poured their support into the community and its first-responders, and several spoke during the event on behalf of those recognized at the Valor Awards.
“Webster’s defines valor as a strength of mind or spirit that enables a person to encounter danger with firmness or personal bravery,” said Todd Hickman, Chamber vice president and an active member of the Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company. “The volunteer fire service provides a vital link to our community. The mission has changed in the past 10 years and, today, firefighters are called upon in the community to do different things, and their role has expanded.
“A lot of people don’t realize the full scope of what the volunteer service provides,” he noted. “There’s fire service, vehicle rescue, medical emergency, ambulance service, water and ice rescue, hazardous material incidents, high-angle and confined situations, and searches for missing people. It’s a pretty broad list, and one we take seriously. I think there’s an underlying reason people join fire service, and that is they all have a common desire to help their community.”
Chamber President Kevin Brady, a retired member of the New York Police Department, spoke of the police officers honored at Friday’s event.
“This day is about the heroes who are here today,” he said. Referencing a lieutenant with whom he served in the NYPD, he continued, “It’s been said that policing is 95 percent boredom and 5 percent pure hell, and I can totally relate to what you all do on a day-in and day-out basis. It’s a dangerous job.
“Today,” Brady said, “we’re here to honor the finest of our police communities, the men and women who protect our freedom and our way of life. I can assure you what the public does not see is the stress, the lack of sleep, the unexpected long hours, the missed family engagements and hardships, and the list goes on. I know what you heroes go through on a daily basis and, for that, we all say, ‘Thank you.’”
Firefighters and police officers of the year recognized for their hard work and commitment by their respective companies included: Firefighter Richard Parrett Jr. of the Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Co.; Firefighter Craig Temple of the Millville Volunteer Fire Co.; Firefighter Michael Magee of the Roxana Volunteer Fire Co.; Cpl. Brandon Elliott, Bethany Beach Police Department; Cpl. Stephen Majewski, Fenwick Island Police Department; PFC Sidney Ballentine, Ocean View Police Department; Master Cpl. Eric Watkins, South Bethany Police Department; Lt. Robert Reed, Selbyville Police Department.
In addition, Elliott was honored with the 2011 Joshua M. Freeman Valor Award for his heroic efforts during Memorial Day weekend of 2010. While on patrol, Bethany Beach Police Chief Michael Redmon recalled in his nomination, Elliott spotted a vehicle and operator that matched the description of a subject wanted for first-degree murder by Baltimore City Police.
After notifying emergency dispatch, Elliott pursued the suspect and made a felony car stop, which led to a foot pursuit. As he moved to scale a fence leading into a residential development, Elliott wrestled the suspect to the ground and handcuffed him. He was subsequently extradited back to Maryland, where he now sits on death row.
“You can’t put a Baltimore City cop in Bethany,” said Elliott, who has been with the Bethany Beach Police Department since 2006, “and, likewise, you can’t put a Bethany Beach cop in Baltimore. But working in a community like ours, you have to be able to adjust to the situation immediately. Everything changes like that, in an instant.
“We’re a young, proactive department,” he said, “and we really try to prevent these dangerous situations before they happen. I wouldn’t have been able to catch the suspect without the help from the guys I was working with. You have to be prepared for anything. You never know what you’re going to be facing.”