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Police officer, firefighter receive medal of valor

By chirst
Jan. 10, 2013 at 10:02 p.m.
Updated Jan. 9, 2013 at 7:10 p.m.

Firefighters Skylar Byers, left, and Captain Adam Luther look over Bernard's Medal of Valor that he was presented with Thursday night during the 2nd Annual Public Safety Banquet Thursday night at the Spring Creek Events Center. Byers was presented with a "Rookie of the Year" award.

ADDITIONAL POLICE DEPARTMENT AWARDS

Distinguished Service Award: Diana Rhodes and BJ Kloesel from the Civilian Police Academy

Police Commendation: Telecommunicator Pat Cantu

Police Commendation: Telecommunicator Morgan Hill

Unit Commendation: Special Crimes Unit, made up of Lt. Mark Jameson, Sgt. Clay Fetters, Senior Patrol Officer Dennis Paine, Senior Patrol Officer Jimmy McDonald, K-9 Officer Kelly Gibbs and K-9 Officer Jason Stover.

Lifesaving Award: Heather Rodriguez

Telecommunicator of the Year: Pat Cantu

Civilian Employee of the Year: Crime Scene Unit Supervisor Holly Jedlicka

Chief's Leadership Award: Lt. Mark Jameson

Officer of the Year: Senior Patrol Officer Jason Stover

Chief's Letter of Commendation: Telecommunicator Crewleader Katie Moore

ADDITIONAL FIRE DEPARTMENT AWARDS

Firefighter of the Year: Eric Lebedeff

Medic of the Year: Kyle Pantel and Dana Woodward

Officer of the Year: Ryan Keller

Rookie of the Year: Skylar Byers

Member of the Year: Jimmie Lou Edwards

Special Recognition for Outstanding Service: Kyle Pantel

Daniel Teinert Scholarship: Michael Wallace Bell

Certificates of Merit: Frank Naranjo, Michael Wallace Bell, Johnathan Myers, Joshua Torres

Lifesaving Award: Chad Strauss and Aaron Janssen

Citizens Certificate of Merit: Randy Boyd and John Sullivan

Billy Bernard and Adam Luther were driving north on Nursery Drive, on their way to Turkeyfest on Oct. 12.

Friends, the Victoria police officer and firefighter, were looking forward to the evening off from jobs that demand they put the lives of others before their own.

But when they saw smoke coming from U.S. Highway 87, they immediately pulled their vehicle over, leaving it running and the doors open as they ran across the ditch.

As a three-vehicle accident came into view, the men did not hesitate to crawl into a burning SUV to rescue an unconscious man - and then crawl back into the car to make sure no one else was inside.

"I don't even remember getting into the car. The fire was right there," said Luther, a firefighter, holding his hand next to his face to demonstrate. "A few more seconds and I wouldn't be standing here."

When Fire Chief Taner Drake heard later that night how the off-duty men acted, he said he got goosebumps.

"First responders, they do that on a daily basis, but usually they have the protection of their equipment, their uniforms ... these guys were like civilians in this thing," Drake said. "But they still took those actions they would have any other day."

Both he and Police Chief J.J. Craig knew the men had to be recognized, which is why the departments awarded Bernard and Luther Medals of Valor - one of the highest honors in law enforcement - Thursday night at the Second Annual Public Safety Banquet for police and firefighters.

Neither department has awarded the medal since the floods of 1998.

"There is no doubt that William Bernard and Capt. Adam Luther, their actions directly saved the life of that young man. He was unconscious, the car was on fire, and if they would not have taken action, there would have been a fatality that night," Drake said.

Drake and Craig said advisory boards in each department unanimously approved the awards.

"That says a lot because most of those same folks who are making those decisions, they tend to think they are just doing their job," Drake said.

And that is just what they were doing.

"I don't remember being scared or nervous," Bernard, a five-year veteran of the police department, said.

The men also pulled a woman from a second vehicle before it caught on fire.

"I just felt joy and excitement, and am honored to be a wife of someone who isn't afraid to help others," his wife, Kristi Bernard, said about the award.

The departments also honored civilians, officers, firefighters and dispatchers during the banquet.

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