By Dennis Fargo
QUANTICO, VA. – We are served by heroes. That was the message given on April 29th, as courageous first responders from Prince William County, the City of Manassas, the State of Virginia and the Federal Government were honored at the 28th Annual Valor Awards luncheon held at The Clubs at Quantico and Crossroads Event Center by the Prince William Chamber of Commerce. Skies were sullen, but the landscape celebrated in Dogwood lace for the awardees, who, inside the banquet hall, enjoyed a mood that was decidedly red, white and blue.
The Chamber is justly proud of this year’s 34 awardees, whose number included officers of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office; the Virginia Department of State Police; the Prince William County Police Department; the Prince William County Department of Fire & Rescue; the City of Manassas Police Department; and the Occoquan-Woodbridge-Lorton Volunteer Fire Department. These were men and women who had crawled into places no human should have to enter in order to find us; who had endured searing heat to check just one more flaming room for our presence; and who had rolled their patrol cars without hesitation into alleys where they were outnumbered and sometimes outgunned, in order to shine the lights of decency and respect into its darkest corners. Their citations gave witness that our country has no finer public servants.
The event included a welcome by Bill White, the Chamber’s Chairman of the Board, and the Presentation of Colors by the Prince William County Public Safety Color Guard. In his Invocation, Reverend George Carlisle, Pastor of Gainesville’s Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, honored the fallen and injured of the Fort Hood massacre. He noted that our first responders inspire us at all ages, as evinced in the aspirations of his four-year-old son, “To be a policeman or fireman, so I can help people.”
Debbie Jones, the Chamber’s Acting President & Chief Executive Officer, recognized the many dignitaries present for the occasion. The Valor Awards Corporate Sponsor, Stephen Porter, President of Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center, CVP, Sentara Health Care Northern VA, addressed the community of approximately 300 citizens who gathered to honor the awardees, noting that these men and women had served local residents “When they were most vulnerable, or at their worst.”
Speaker Sponsor, Heather Huneycutt of Novant Health introduced the Emcee of the event, Chris Lawrence, Emmy Award-winning Anchor and Pentagon Correspondent at NBC4. Mr. Lawrence stated that his experiences as a news correspondent had given him a special appreciation for first responders, “Who run in when everyone else is running out.” Mr. Lawrence then read the citations, which included multiple acts of life-saving and investigative prowess, including skillful execution of always-difficult interagency coordination leading to convictions. In one example, Captain Tom Clark, of the Prince William County Department of Fire & Rescue, received a Merit Award for preventing a potential suicide-by-train. The determined potential victim left the tracks at the last moment after asking, “Is it illegal to want to commit suicide?” The Captain answered, “Yes!” The man later stated that he was alive “Because an authoritative person told me to get off the track.”
The event’s catered lunch, presented by The Clubs at Quantico and Crossroads Event Center, included chicken and beef entrees contributing to lively table-talk. A looping slide show acknowledged the Chamber’s many partners and sponsors for the event, including a sponsor for each award. Additional information concerning the event may be found online at pwchamber.org/events/valor/.
The award recipients will be entered into the Congressional Record by Congressman Gerry Connolly. They also received a commendation by Governor Terry McAuliffe. Lucky are we, to have such fellow citizens as guardians, neighbors and friends.
The Prince William Chamber of Commerce annually recognizes the men and women of public service organizations whose service has gone above and beyond the call of duty to make our community a safer place to live, work, and play. This year, the Chamber’s Valor Awards Task Force; its 2013/2014 Chamber Partners, Vision Partners, and Cornerstone Partners; and its Presenting Sponsor, Sentara Healthcare, are proud to publicly recognize the above individuals in behalf of their parent organizations – and especially, in behalf of the citizens of Prince William County and the Cities of Manassas and Manassas Park whom they so capably serve. Congratulations, faithful responders!
Additional event sponsors were Cardinal Bank, MTCI-Management and Training Consultants, Inc., NOVEC-Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative, Stonebridge at Potomac Town Center, University of Maryland University College (UMUC) and Youth for Tomorrow. Dominion Virginia Power is the Chamber’s Quality of Life Vision Partner. The Prince William Times and Prince William Living served as Community Sponsors.
About the Prince William Chamber of Commerce:
The Prince William Chamber of Commerce is the strongest voice for the business community in the Washington, DC Metropolitan region. Together with our diverse membership, representing nearly 70,000 employees we work to create an environment where business and people thrive. To accomplish this, we focus our efforts in the key areas of business growth, economic development, advocacy, education and community outreach. In this way, we are building a solid foundation for the success of our business members and our community. For more information, visit our website at www.pwchamber.org or call the Prince William Chamber at 703-368-6600.