Annual Valor Awards Recognize First Responder, Civilian Heroes

The Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce’s 2020 Valor Awards ceremony on Friday, Oct. 2 honored first responders and civilians who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to help their neighbors.

The ceremony, like almost all events this year, looked different this time as those same firefighters, EMTs, law enforcement officers, health care workers and caring citizens fight the COVID-19 pandemic. While normally the event packs the ballroom at the National Conference Center, this year attendance was strictly limited, with other precautions like face masks in place.

Fire-Rescue Chief Keith Johnson said when the pandemic began, there was no COVID-19 playbook. Instead, first responders leaned on their experience, education and training.

“It was that analytical ability that will help us through this process, and certainly we’ve had struggles, and certainly we’ve had bumps and bruises along the way,” Johnson said. “You see, COVID-19 has taught us that we have no control of what is presented to us in our lives, but rather we overcome and adapt. And that’s what first responders do.”

First responders continue to adapt, going into harm’s way in the pandemic—a few nights before the Valor Awards, Johnson told  people at a meeting about a planned Philomont fire station replacement, “We are in the worst situation since the pandemic started,” with 12 members positive and 54 quarantined at that time. 170 fire-rescue system members, he said, have recovered from the virus.

“These outstanding women and men demonstrate their commitment to our safety and that of our families and our coworkers and our neighbors every single day that they put on their uniforms,” said Loudoun Chamber Board of Directors Chairman Stacey Metcalfe. “These are folks who run towards danger. They charge into burning buildings, face down dangerous assailants and regularly confront situations with unknown circumstances and uncertain outcomes.”

Dozens of people were recognized at the ceremony for their heroic actions. Their stories ranged from Leesburg Police Department officers Omar Fuentes, Michael McDonald and Donnie Wilhelm, who saved a suicidal young woman from herself in a hotel room; to Loudoun County Fire-Rescue System members Bradley Brown, Keith Lee-Diamond, and Brian McGill, who commandeered equipment at a construction site to save a worker who had fallen into a hole on site and was badly injured; to Brian Flynn, a civilian who spotted an elderly woman in her car in a creek in January with water up to her hips, and rescued her; to two elementary schoolers who spotted a garage on fire and alerted neighbors, preventing it from spreading to the house.

Download the full Valor Awards program and read all of the heroic stories on the Loudoun Chamber’s website.

View a video of the program here.

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