Two Henrico officers earn Valor Awards
Two Henrico County police officers were among seven area first responders honored for heroism Oct. 5 at the Retail Merchants Association's 23rd Annual Valor Awards.
Held annually at the the Greater Richmond Convention Center, the event drew approximately 500 business leaders, law enforcement officers, firefighters and EMS personnel and featured keynote speaker William “Bill” G. Haneke, an author and decorated veteran of the Vietnam War.
Haneke, a 1966 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, was a U.S. Army ranger and paratrooper awarded three Bronze Stars, a Purple Heart, the Combat Infantry Badge, and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry for his service. He is also a co-founder of The Families of the Wounded Fund, Inc., which provides assistance to family members and caregivers of wounded military veterans.
Having barely survived the horrendous wounds he suffered from an exploding Viet Cong land mine, Haneke told the crowd, he has a particular fondness for first responders.
Despite the extent of his injuries and the decades that have passed since, Haneke was able to describe the moment of impact in vivid detail, and the sensation of being hurled 80 feet through the air.
"I landed on barbed wire," Haneke recalled. "My leg was hanging by a tendon, and my carotid artery was severed. I could feel the blood bouncing off my shoulder with every beat of my heart."
Because Haneke's dog tags were blown off by the blast, medical personnel had no way to know his religion or blood type. Taken to five field hospitals before reaching a surgical hospital, he was given last rites multiple times.
"But the medics took great care of me," he said. "They managed to keep me alive." Using a two-and-a-half-inch section of intact artery from his severed leg, medics were able to graft a repair onto the carotid artery.
"I'm the first person they tried this on that lived," said Haneke. "And I'm here to tell you, 43 years later, it's still working."
Moving from battlefield stories to an account of his career at the Medical College of Virginia, Haneke described emergency room incidents involving everything from drug overdoses, severe burns, and children abandoned at the hospital door to gang violence and accidents involving explosive and chemical transports.
Regarding the nights when street crimes spiked and knifing and shooting victims would arrive at the ER in clusters, Haneke noted that the violence didn't stop there.
"There were several occasions," he said, "when [the offenders] would come in the ER and try to finish what they started on the streets.
"My hat is off to the first responders that respond to these situations," Haneke summed up. "You just don't know what you're going to encounter."
Bronze Award recipients
Officer Michael A. Moore and Officer Edward L. Wigley of the Henrico Division of Police earned the Bronze Award for their actions during an armed confrontation Sept. 8, 2011.
The incident began when a citizen called police and requested a police escort to her residence because of a protective order against her husband.
Learning that the husband had called a friend, crying and threatening suicide, officers formulated a plan and organized an entry team a few blocks from the caller’s residence. As officers approached the apartment, the woman’s husband arrived in a taxi. Wigley recognized the suspect, alerted other officers, and ordered the suspect to show his hands.
Pulling out a handgun, the suspect shot himself and pointed the gun in the direction of Moore, who was standing beside the taxi. Wigley then positioned himself between the suspect and the taxi driver, trying to get the driver out of the vehicle, while Moore fired several shots at the suspect in the cab. Officials later learned that the suspect had been arrested earlier in the year for shooting into an occupied vehicle and reckless use of a weapon.
Also honored with Valor Awards were four members of the Chesterfield Fire and EMS Scuba Rescue Team who assisted Westmoreland County authorities with rescues from flooding caused by Tropical Storm Lee, and a Hanover County firefighter who pulled a woman from a burning car using his bare hands.
Retired fire chief also honored
In addition to the awards ceremony, the event also included performances by the Greater Richmond Pipes & Drums and two special tributes.
Bill Selden of The 100 Club presented the tributes, honoring the late Ruby Turner, a local community law enforcement advocate, and Edwin Smith, the recently retired chief of Henrico County Division of Fire.
Noting that it was at least his twelfth visit to the Valor Awards, Smith echoed Haneke's remark that all first responders are heroes. "There are countless other stories not being told here today," he said. "But it's every day that [first responders] wake up and do these things."
And while he has missed seeing many friends and co-workers since retiring, said Smith, they are never far from his mind.
"I don't miss the work," he said, amid laughter, "but I miss you.
“And I do still pray for you every day.”
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