Valor Awards Praise First Responders, Citizens for Bravery

By Caroline Boras

On April 4 last year, police Cpl. Paul Kakol and Deputy First Class Ryan Hamilton responded to a domestic dispute between a father and son. They found the victim—Purcellville Baptist Church Pastor David L. Janney—suffering from stab wounds in his home. They performed first aid and stabilized him until the rescue team arrived.

Meanwhile, Sgt. Robert Wagner searched the scene for the suspect, who they believed was still in the home. Finding the suspect fled, Wagner broadcast an alert over the radio.

Chris Loftis, an off-duty Fairfax County Sheriff’s deputy, was driving to his home in Purcellville, when he heard on the radio that police were searching for a suspect. He spotted Jonathan Janney, apprehended the 19-year-old and arrested him.

This display of teamwork and bravery earned Kakol and Hamilton Bronze Medals of Valor and Loftis and Wagner Certificates of Valor. Their awards, and almost 100 others, were announced at Loudoun County’s Chamber of Commerce’s Valor Awards ceremony today.

The awards honor both first responders and citizens who “when faced with an emergency situation, stepped in to assist another person in their time of desperate need,” said Tony Howard, president and CEO of the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce.

Among this year’s 107 recipients were a bus driver for Harmony Middle School, a school security officer at Stone Bridge High School, several deputies and sergeants from the Loudoun County Adult Detention Center and deputies who issued Narcan, an opioid overdose medication, saving 10 lives.

Twelve members of a Loudoun County Fire and Rescue unit were awarded a Unit Citation and Certificates of Valor for their efforts in saving a young man who suffered a head injury after falling 20 feet from a rope swing into shallow water.

The first responders faced many challenges to save the young man: there was no shoreline to put equipment, there was a drop off in the water close to where they were working, there was only 90 minutes of daylight left, and the head injury made the young man combative.

The team went to work, calling a helicopter, stabilizing the victim and rigging a rope system to lift him out of the water, using the tree that earlier held the rope swing. Less than an hour after arriving to the scene, the young man was airlifted out and treated for his injuries.

But not all Valor Award winners had first responder training.

One recipient was a high school student. Annika Pracher, 17, was getting a ride to school from her father when the car began to veer. Her father suddenly slumped over the steering wheel and the car crossed three lanes of traffic, over the median, then over two lanes of oncoming traffic.

Annika took the steering wheel, pulled over and removed her father’s foot from the gas. She called 911 after parking the car. Annika was awarded a Meritorious Civilian Award for saving her father’s life and preventing others from getting hurt in the process.

A group of eight Ashby Ponds employees also won Meritorious Civilian Awards for their efforts in helping a man who was hit by a car while crossing the street. A combination of safety officers, security officers, security supervisors and a medical professional stabilized the man, who suffered severe injuries to his leg and arms, until first responders could arrive.

The Stu Plitman First Responder Community Service Award, which recognizes first-responders who’ve gone above and beyond to foster positive relationships with the community, went to Deputies First Class Milton Castelle, Victor LoPreto and Dawn Taylor. The award, which is given in honor of Stu Piltman, the founder of the Loudoun First Responders Foundation, recognizes “emergency first responders who demonstrate the highest commitment to fostering positive relationships with the Loudoun community in ways that enhance the safety and security of [the] citizens.”

From left, Deputies First Class Dawn Taylor, Victor LoPreto and Milton Castelle stand with Barbara Plitman. The deputies received the Stu Plitman First Responder Community Service Award.

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