The Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce today honored dozens of first responders who went above and beyond their already challenging call of duty, along with courageous civilians whose actions over the past year saved lives, during the 2022 Loudoun Valor Awards.
Now in its 37th year, the ceremony annually recognizes members of local fire and rescue and law enforcement with a range of awards.
The first award of the event, the Stu Plitman First Responder Community Service Award, is named for and given in honor of the founder of the Loudoun First Responders Foundation. It honors a first responder who shows the highest commitment to fostering positive relationship with the community.
This year it went to Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Natalie Martz, whose public safety career began in 1998 when she joined Lovettsville Volunteer Fire and Rescue at 16 years old. She decided to pursue a career in law enforcement, joining the Sheriff’s Office in 2004 and becoming a field training officer, mentoring young deputies. Today, she serves as background investigator, and continues her mentoring by training new background investigators. And during all of that time, she has continued to volunteer with Lovettsville Volunteer Fire and Rescue and now with the Loudoun County Volunteer Rescue Squad in Leesburg.
She also stepped up during the COVID-19 pandemic by assisting with record keeping and vaccinating. And it is not her first day onstage at the Valor Awards—in 2019 she was honored with a Lifesaving Award after she and her husband saved a man they found suffering a medical emergency behind the wheel of a vehicle while she was off-duty.
Loudoun County Fire and Rescue Captain Lindsay Jacobs was given a Silver Medal of Valor for her actions Sept. 25, 2021, when while off-duty and driving on Rt. 7 with family she arrived first on the scene of a serious crash near Clayton Hall Road. She found a person trapped in a vehicle that had rolled over and was starting to catch fire. She directed her own mother and child to stay in her vehicle while she crawled under the smoke and helped with the trapped person’s head injury until fire-rescue units arrived to extinguish the flames, take over medical care and extricate the injured person with her help.
One civilian and seven deputies were honored for their actions during an apartment fire in Sterling. Carlos Zapata was awarded a Civilian Medal of Valor; LCSO Deputies First Class Abdulah Rasooli, Brandon McGhee and Jorge Zavala were awarded Bronze Medals of Valor; and LCSO DFCs Elvir Hozanovic, Kelsey Long, Joseph Rosado, and Evlin Valladares were given awarded Certificates of Valor for their work evacuating people, even running through the smoke in the building to make sure everyone was out. Rasooli had also found an elderly woman in a wheelchair and, with McGhee’s help, carried her out. They successfully evacuated 56 people. Three deputies were taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation.
The families displaced by that fire got a helping hand from the community through April Taylor, founder of Catch A Meal, and from the then-Washington Football Team’s Jimmy Moreland and personally delivered by NFL Hall of Fame member Darrell Green.
And the event closed with an incident in December 2021 that shocked the community after a shootout at the Sterling Walmart. On Jan. 2, a by a Walmart loss prevention officer apprehended a man and held him until a Sheriff’s Office deputy arrived and attempted to arrest him. At that point the man pulled a gun and started shooting, wounding Deputy First Class Cameron Gentry and two Walmart employees. He then ran out of the store, stole a vehicle and drove south to Fairfax County before police apprehended him. An eight-day jury trial of the suspect is scheduled to begin May 16.
The incident also sparked an outpouring of support for Gentry, who underwent multiple surgeries and spent 42 days in the hospital. The Dulles Fraternal Order of Police launched a GoFundMe page to help Gentry with his long-term recovery, raising more than $100,000, and when he left the hospital Gentry was greeted by a crowd of more than 100 supporters.
In that incident, meritorious civilian awards went to Jade Pusloskie and Muhammad Amin. A Silver Medal of Valor went to Deputy First Class Charles Ewing, who was there with Gentry during the shooting and returned fire. Bronze Medals of Valor went to Gentry, Lt. Jason Illowite, Firefighter/EMT Christopher Cloud, and Firefighter/EMT Bryan Jennings, the first rescue crew to arrive on scene and who applied tourniquets to stop Gentry’s bleeding.
And a unit citation went to Captain Dan Shealy, Firefighter/EMT Noah Wing and Paramedic/Lieutenant Andrew Fields, who transported Gentry to Reston Trauma Center, performing a blood transfusion en route.
In all, the program featured one Civilian Medal of Valor, 10 Meritorious Civilian Awards, 53 Unit Citations, 17 Lifesaving Awards, 13 Certificates of Valor, nine Bronze Medals of Valor, and two Silver Medals of Valor.
The full program of awards is expected to be posted at LoudounChamber.org.