The Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce brought together members of the business, government and public safety communities Friday, April 12 for the 2019 Valor Awards, celebrating the firefighters, rescue workers, law enforcement officers and civilians whose actions in 2018 saved others from danger or death.
“These outstanding women and men demonstrate their commitment to our safety, and that of our families, our coworkers and neighbors every single day they put on a uniform,” said Chamber president and CEO Tony Howard. “These are the folks who run toward danger.”
The ceremony honored 43 first responders and 19 civilians in total.
The Stu Plitman Community Service Award this year went to Leesburg Police Department Master Police Officer Chris Tidmore, who has served Leesburg for nearly two decades.
In that time, he has held a variety of jobs, from school resource officer to the Emergency Response Team’s tactical element—Leesburg’s SWAT team—and negotiations.
Tidmore created Leesburg’s Police Explorer Program, working with the Boy Scouts of America, and was group leader for four years. He is also one of the principal organizers of National Night Out in Leesburg, which every year brings people out for fun and aims to build partnerships between law enforcement and the communities they serve.
On his own time, Tidmore also organizes the department’s “Holidays with the Cops” program, which provides underprivileged children a holiday meal and a shopping trip for gifts. In 2018, the program’s tenth year, eighteen children participated. That is among the many other fundraisers and collections Tidmore has led on his own time and often at his own expense.
The award is named for the person who chaired the Valor Awards committee for more than a decade and founded the Loudoun Valor Foundation, which is now called the Loudoun First Responders Foundation. That foundation provides immediate financial aid to first responders in need, such as after an injury.
“How often do you say, ‘one second later and this accident would not have happened? If we arrived just one minute later, we wouldn’t have been able to save that child?’” said current First Responders Foundation Chairman Ed Williams. “First responders risk everything every day for other in their time of need.”
The awards recognized the people involved in 24 incidents in 2018, ranging from a man who pulled back a woman attempting to jump off a Rt. 28 overpass, to two young children who saved their mother during a seizure by calling 911 and getting help from a neighbor, to the rescue crews who worked to save a boy whose foot had become trapped in an escalator.
In one incident, a student at Rock Ridge High School attempted to strangle himself while speaking to the school’s counselor, Nicole Bryan, in the assistant principal’s office. The student wrapped a lamp cord around his neck, which Bryan could not remove. She called for help.
Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office Deputy First Class William “Michael” Baker, school safety officer Wayne Harrison, and Assistant Principal Jeremy Cortash rushed to help. Although the student at first fought back, they were able to remove the cord, at which time the student was unconscious and non-responsive.
When the student awoke, he reached for the lamp cord to strangle himself again and lay on his hands so they could not stop him. The student fought them again, but Harrison and Cortash moved his hands while Baker handcuffed the student to stop him from reaching for the cord again. The student was taken to the emergency room.
In another incident, Loudoun Deputy Michael Matias was driving to work on Fairfax County Parkway when he was forced to swerve to avoid a disabled vehicle. He saw all the airbags had been deployed and the windows shattered.
He pulled over and spoke to the driver, who was standing next to the car. While speaking to her, he heard and saw an 18-wheeler bearing down on them at high speed and yelled at the driver and another person on the scene to jump over the guardrail.
All three did. The truck hit the disabled vehicle, pushing it about 300 yards. As he ran to check on the truck driver, who was uninjured, vehicles continued to swerve to avoid the debris.
The event’s keynote speaker, U.S. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), said law enforcement is one of the few areas where there remains bipartisan agreement in Congress.
“These are the folks that when danger, accidents or violence take place, they run toward it rather than away, and I think that’s really great that the Chamber gives out these awards,” Warner said after the event. “You hear how many lives were saved by quick thinking by smart thinking from first responders, and I think we ought to do more to respect that.”
“They regularly face situations of unknown circumstance and uncertain outcomes,” Howard said. “Each time they do, they do it with one thought in mind: there’s someone there who needs my help.”
Warner’s remarks focused on his priorities for Washington.
“Now for the important part of my presentation: Let me now report all of the incredibly positive things that are coming out of the United States Congress,” Warner said, pausing. “Alright, that’s the end of the report.”
He said the U.S. would have to be tougher on China, get serious about cyberbullying and electronic meddling in elections by Russia, and reinvest in the country itself.
“We’re down to only spending about six cents on every dollar that goes to Washington spent on education, infrastructure, and research and development,” Warner said. “Again, I don’t care what political party you belong to, but as a business guy… I would not invest in a company that only spent six cents on those categories.”
He also said he understands the frustration with what people are seeing on television news. He said his request is “don’t tune out.”
“If you tune out, all you’re doing is turning the keys over to the extremists,” Warner said.