Heroes recognized at 2021 Valor Awards Ceremony

Twenty-six members of the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office were among those recognized Monday, July 26, at the 36th Annual Valor Awards ceremony held at the National Conference Center in Lansdowne. This year’s awards recognized the heroic actions of 65 first responders and nine civilians. 

The Loudoun County Valor Awards program awards were established by the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce, in conjunction with the local public safety agencies, to recognize and acknowledge members of the various public safety departments, as well as everyday citizens, who have placed themselves in harm’s way over the past year to ensure the safety of others.

Loudoun County Sheriff Mike Chapman and members of the LCSO leadership team and command staff were among community and business leaders in attendance. “Today’s ceremony was another reminder of the heroic actions first responders often take to help save lives,” said Chapman. “I am proud of the work the men and women of the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office do every day.”

Receiving the Lifesaving Award from the LCSO were Senior Deputy Nathan House, Deputy First Class Kirk Graham, Deputy First Class Stanly Miller, Lt. Doug Snell, Sgt. Melissa Tenant, Deputy First Class Sean Trautner, Master Deputy Jennifer Wetzel, Senior Deputy Robert Flood (Retired), Deputy First Class Cody Hoffmaster, Deputy First Class John Giangola, Deputy First Class Joseph Whitehead, and Deputy First Class Joshua Edney.  

Receiving the Unit Citation from the LCSO were Deputy First Class Mitchell Costic, Deputy First Class Joseph Garone, and Sgt. Jeffrey Hunt. 

Receiving the Certificate of Valor from the LCSO were Deputy First Class Derek Ater, Sgt. Chad Braun, Sgt. Jeffrey Cichocki, Deputy First Class Colborn, Deputy First Class Jacob Karrasch, Sgt. Lewis McClenahan, Deputy First Class James Sullivan, Master Deputy Mike Hall, and Deputy Megan Wealand. 

 Receiving the Bronze Medal of Honor were Deputy First Class Brandon Noland and Deputy Zach Gardner. 

Chaplain Charles Grant received the Stu Plitman First Responder Community Service Award, which recognizes those emergency first responders who demonstrate the highest commitment to fostering positive relationships with the Loudoun County community in ways that enhance the safety and security of the citizens.

Charles “Charlie” Grant became involved as an Emergency Services Chaplain working with the LCSO in 1979. He then joined the Sterling Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue Squad in 1980 as company Chaplain. He later founded the Loudoun County Fire and Rescue’s Chaplain program, and throughout the years has shaped Loudoun’s sense of volunteerism and charity. 

Also recognized were members of the Loudoun County Combined Fire and Rescue System, the Town of Leesburg Police Department, the Town of Purcellville Police Department, the City of Manassas Police Department, and a total of nine civilians. 

Three Purcellville Police Department officers were honored. Officer Alexander Burkett received a Bronze Medal of Valor, Sgt. Paul Kakol received a Lifesaving Award, and Officer Raymond Starkey was honored with a Certificate of Valor for their heroic actions during two separate incidents in 2020.

 Officers Burkett and Starkey were honored for their courageous and swift response to an incident in February 2020.

The original call was dispatched as a noise complaint of a car loudly revving its engine in the early morning hours, but by the time Officer Burkett arrived on scene he found a vehicle which had driven into a building at the same address and was half engulfed in flames. 

He quickly used all his strength to assist the injured driver out of harm’s way, and safely away from the burning vehicle and building.

Officer Starkey then arrived on scene and proceeded to evacuate the burning apartment building, and began pounding on doors to alert residents inside, and persisted until every apartment was successfully evacuated.

The incident required a large fire department response and resulted in four families being displaced. An investigation revealed that the driver was under the influence of drugs and became incapacitated with his foot on the accelerator. 

Sgt. Paul Kakol was recognized for his excellent response to a potentially life-threatening incident in April 2020.

Sgt. Kakol was dispatched to a shooting, and upon arriving on scene, grabbed his trauma bag and quickly assessed the situation. He located a male victim with a severe gunshot wound to his upper leg.  Because the exact nature of the shooting had yet to be determined, Sgt. Kakol directed the other officers on scene, Burkett and Starkey, to secure the scene and guard the evidence, while he evaluated the victim’s injuries and provided life-saving measures. 

Finding no exit wound and minimal external bleeding, Sgt. Kakol was confident that the victim’s femur was shattered because the leg felt like “Jell-O.”  He was concerned there could be life-threatening internal bleeding.

As a result, he applied direct pressure to stop the blood flow to the leg and quickly applied a tactical tourniquet from his trauma bag. The first paramedic arrived on scene while Sgt. Kakol was packing the wound with hemostatic gauze to promote rapid clotting and prevent blood loss. Sgt. Kakol said he would finish packing the wound then get out of the way for medical personnel, but the paramedic was so impressed with Sgt. Kakol’s work, he directed him to keep working. 

The victim was transported to the INOVA Trauma Center at Lansdowne, where he underwent extensive surgery to repair his femur, which was confirmed to be shattered.  The victim survived the shooting, which was determined to be accidental.

“I am so proud of all the first responders and citizens honored at today’s ceremony. Sgt. Kakol, Officers Burkett, and Starkey went above and beyond the normal duties for a police officer, and I am proud to have them as part of the Purcellville Police Department. If you ask each of them individually, they would say they are just doing their jobs, but it just shows the type of character they have.  They are willing to do whatever it takes to help a citizen, regardless if they could get hurt in the process themselves,” said Chief of Police Cynthia McAlister.

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