Governor Jay Nixon presented the Missouri Medal of Valor to seven public safety officers for their extraordinary acts of bravery and heroism that saved lives. One of them was Dan Berry of the Fulton Fire Department.
Berry became trapped in a burning house but still managed to get out with the victim. He says he didn’t realize how much danger he was really in until afterwards. Berry and his partner were the only two firefighters in the state who were awarded the medal of honor at the ceremony. He says he didn’t always plan on being a firefighter, but volunteered and got hooked. Now, he says, it’s something he wants to do for the rest of his life.
Berry, along with the six others being honored, say they were “just doing their job.”
Andrew Ward, a highway patrolman in Southwest Missouri, was honored for pulling a woman from a burning car.
Ward echoed Berry’s thoughts on working a job that puts them in life or death situations in saying he doesn’t even think about the potential danger… once the adrenaline kicks in, they rely on their training, instinct and a willingness and a want to help others.
The Governor was joined at the ceremony by Department of Public Safety Director John M. Britt and by Col. James Keathley, superintendent of the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
Nixon made the presentations of the state’s highest public safety award in his Capitol office, saying “These officers, who come from across the state, represent the very best of Missouri’s public safety community. Each act of bravery was different, but in every instance, these officers acted selflessly without concern for their own safety and helped save the lives of their fellow Missourians. I am proud to stand with them and on behalf of all Missourians, I thank them for their outstanding service and the fine examples they set of what public service can be.”
The recipients are:
– Robert “Elmer” Bellefy, Belton Emergency Services, who saved the lives of a mother and her daughter while responding to an accident and fire involving five vehicles on Highway 71 in Belton. The mother and daughter were trapped inside a burning vehicle. Bellefy first rescued the mother. To rescue the child, he had to crawl inside the burning vehicle, shielding the girl from the flames and heat, as he worked against time to free her leg that was pinned by twisted metal and the car seats.
– Daniel Berry and Todd Gray, Fulton Fire Department. Berry and Gray rescued a woman from a burning house in Fulton. While inside, attempting to find the victim, the blaze grew dramatically and flahsed over, filling the structure with thick black smoke, blocking their escape route. Despite this, the victim was located through a hand search, and the two firefighters were able to get her out through a bedroom window and then safely escape themselves.
– Shawn Dougherty, Troop G, Missouri State Highway Patrol. Dougherty responded to a vehicle caught in a flash flood in Carter County, and after first rescuing one person caught near a vehicle in swift water conditions, he and others turned their attention to a second victim. That victim, who could not swim, was thrown a rope and, without warning, jumped into the swift water, dropping below the surface as he was swept away. Risking his own life, Trooper Dougherty jumped in, swam toward the victim and repeatedly went under water to find the victim. His search was successful and he held the victim’s head above water until the victim could be safely pulled to the shore.
– Donald Hayden, Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office, ended a shooting rampage by a heavily armed suspect at a trailer court in Dixon by shooting the suspect. Hayden responded to a domestic violence assault inside a trailer, shots fired at a neighbor, and the bludgeoning of another neighbor with a pistol. The suspect had fled but was then spotted returning to the trailer court. To protect residents, Hayden drove toward the suspect and used his patrol car to block the suspect’s vehicle. The suspect exited his vehicle and started firing. More than 20 shots were fired by Hayden and the suspect in a close-range gun battle. Deputy Hayden was shot four times as he ended the threat to the trailer court.
– Dale Jinkens, Troop A, Missouri State Highway Patrol, rescued a motorist who was trapped inside a burning vehicle on Interstate 70 in Independence. Jinkens could not reach the victim because her vehicle was up against the concrete highway divider, so he organized motorists who had stopped, and, working together, they moved the vehicle far enough that he could squeeze between the divider and the car – still engulfed in flames – and rescue the driver.
– Andrew Ward, Troop D, Missouri State Highway Patrol, also rescued a motorist who was trapped inside a burning car on Route W in Butler County. Ward tried to remove the driver through the front passenger door, but the woman’s foot was wedged under the brake pedal, so he dived through the driver door window and dislodged her foot. The vehicle filled with smoke as the fire intensified until Ward could not get himself out. After being pulled to safety by another trooper, Ward – without hesitation – ran back to the passenger door and, with the help of several civilians, pulled the driver from the burning vehicle to safety.
“I am continually impressed by the dedication of the men and women of Missouri’s public safety community,” Nixon said, “They and their families sacrifice daily so that we can have better and safer communities across this state. All Missourians owe a debt of gratitude to the men and women who selflessly work to protect us.”
The Medal of Valor is awarded annually by Missouri’s Governor after recommendations are submitted by the Medal of Valor Review Board. State statute authorizes up to seven medals each year. Recipients must be persons serving a public agency, with or without compensation, as a firefighter, law enforcement officer or emergency personnel.
The nominating form states the Medal of Valor is awarded “to a public safety officer who has exhibited exceptional courage, extraordinary decisiveness and presence of mind, and unusual swiftness of action, regardless of his or her own personal safety, in the attempt to save or protect human life.” State and local corrections, court and civil defense officers are eligible.
Nominations are now open for acts performed during 2009. The nominating form is available on the Missouri Department of Public Safety Web site, Nominations must be received by March 31, 2010.