First-responders recognized for service to the community

“Valor is the demonstration of boldness and bravery in the face of adversity and danger,” said Josh Mastrangelo, senior vice president of the Carl M. Freeman Companies at the Joshua M. Freeman Valor Awards on Feb. 22. “In our communities, it is our first-responders who sacrifice their own time, and often their safety, in order to protect the lives of others.

“One of the greatest ways to show our appreciation for their courage and bravery is to recognize their service with a simple — yet important — ‘Thank you.’ It is my great pleasure to represent the Carl M. Freeman Companies and Joshua M. Freeman Foundation at this event and offer a thank-you of our own to the firefighters, police officers, and EMS units who serve and protect our community.”

The awards luncheon was held at The Cove at Bayside, where honorees received a plaque and gift certificate to G&E/Hocker’s.

“Each year, we reach out to the chiefs of our local police departments, volunteer fire companies and EMS units to identify those first-responders who have gone above and beyond in their service to the community,” explained Bethany-Fenwick Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Lauren Weaver. “Everyone we are honoring today was selected by their respective units, and we are pleased to recognize 14 deserving first-responders.”

Ocean View Police Cpl. Justin Hopkins was chosen as the overall Valor Award winner for 2019, for his efforts to raise $26,000 to provide a Tactical Canine Casualty Care course for all Delaware police K9 teams.

“In 2018, Cpl. Hopkins saw a need to provide advanced emergency medical training to area canine handlers,” said Sara Booth of NVHomes and Ryan Homes, and past-president of the Chamber.

“The Tactical Canine Casualty Care course is a two-day hands-on, intensive training focusing on treatment of police-dog emergencies in the field. The training provides the most up to-date life­ saving information available for police dogs. Training includes multiple interactive, casualty-response situations in simulated tactical environments, using canine mannequins and other realistic training aids in dynamic situations. All instructors are recognized as national and international experts.”

A training session for half of the Delaware K9 handlers was held in November of last year. A final session is scheduled for the fall of 2019, which will train the remaining handlers within the state.

“Cpl. Hopkins recognized the need for training, and his initiative to make it happen in spite of having no available funds or resources is commendable and worthy of recognition. His efforts safeguard Delaware’s police canines and strengthen the abilities of the police canine teams to achieve mission success,” said Booth.

Hopkins was also recognized by County Councilmen John Rieley and Doug Hudson (a former trooper with the Delaware State Police), who presented him with an official tribute.

“Sussex County Council recognizes Cpl. Justin Hopkins for his service and dedication to the citizens of Delaware and the First State’s law-enforcement community,” said Rieley.

Hopkins was joined at the luncheon by his mother and father, members of Ocean View Town Council, Town Manager Carol Houck and Ocean View Police Chief Ken McLaughlin.

“Not only is Cpl. Hopkins a fine police officer, he is a fine young man supported by a fine family,” said Ocean View Mayor Pro-Tem Tom Maly. “The Town is very fortunate to have an officer like Cpl. Hopkins. He didn’t just do it for the Town — he did it for the whole state. It’s amazing he was able to raise that amount of money and train so many officers.”

“We’re obviously very proud of Justin and all of his accomplishments. It’s a great thing,” said McLaughlin. “He saw a need, he was able to make it happen and help all of the Delaware law-enforcement community, especially our K9 officers and their handlers. The fact that he took that initiative and made it happen is amazing.”

“It’s well-deserved and truly earned,” added Councilman Frank Twardzik. “It’s just another feather in the cap of the Town of Ocean View. We were recently named the safest town in the state of Delaware, and now we have one of our officers receive this high award. I’m truly pleased.”

This was the third Valor Award nomination Hopkins had received, and his first overall win. He had previously been nominated for life-saving CPR efforts and for his joint response to a local child being shot.

Hopkins gained his four-legged partner, Hardy, who is trained in narcotics detection, in 2014.

“They’re like family. I tell my wife I see my dog more than her, because he comes with me to work. I see him at work and at home. He’s a constant in my life. I talk to him, he talks to me in his own way. We’re really close. I guess any animal owner would be in agreement that it’s a special bond you have with a dog.”

Hopkins said he was extremely humbled by the award.

“It’s interesting. I think there were a lot of other people who were more deserving that were here today. I just wish they could’ve been recognized for it,” he said.

“At the end of the day, we never had any medical training for our dogs. I knew it was something we needed. I’ve seen dogs pass away in the line of duty, guys torn up when they lost their partner, and I wanted to do something to maybe stop that.”

Other local first-responders were honored at the Feb. 22 awards luncheon, including police officers, firefighters, EMTs and paramedics.

Police Officers of the Year from other local departments included:

• Sgt. Michael Bruette of the Selbyville Police Department, who shared a dual honor with Assistant Chief Rick Parrett Jr. of the Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company

“On Dec. 29, 2018, off-duty Assistant Chief Rick Parrett Jr. and his wife Betsey were traveling home from a night out for their son’s birthday. They were driving down Route 54 when a vehicle from the opposite direction came across the road and crashed into a pond in front of the Lighthouse Lakes neighborhood,” said Booth.

“While Betsey dialed 911, Rick entered the water as he was watching the vehicle slowly start to sink. Sgt. Michael Bruette, a 14-year veteran of the Selbyville Police Department, arrived on scene and joined Parrett in the water. The two extricated the 68-year-old man, bringing him safety to land. Parrett’s and Bruette’s quick action and response certainly prevented serious injury, and is just another example of their character, and professionalism.”

• Cpl. Justin Norman of the Bethany Beach Police Department

A sworn officer since 2003, Norman joined the BBPD in 2012. In June of last year, Norman was dispatched to respond to the theft of a purse that had taken place on the boardwalk.

“The victim could only provide a minor description of the suspect and no description of the suspect vehicle,” said Booth, noting that, after canvasing, Norman was able to get descriptions from bystanders.

He then went to businesses and obtained video capturing the suspect vehicle and created intelligence bulletins that were shared throughout town. In July, the vehicle was located in town and a traffic stop was conducted.

“The suspects inside matched the limited description, and all suspects were taken into custody and a complete confession from the suspects was received,” said Booth. “Cpl. Justin Norman exemplifies the dedication and determination needed to investigate and solve crimes within our community. His empathy for his victims and his desire to help others is consistently demonstrated.”

• Cpl. Steven Lowe of the Fenwick Island Police Department

In August, Cpl. Steven Lowe was dispatched to the Thunder Lagoon water park due to a report of an unresponsive subject that was pulled out of the pool.

“Cpl. Lowe responded and was on location within two minutes, where he found a female performing CPR on an elderly male next to the pool. Cpl. Lowe responded with an AED (automatic external defibrillator) that is issued to every police officer. Lowe deployed the AED and was advised to administer a shock. A shock was delivered to the unresponsive male and his heart began to beat and he started breathing on his own. EMS responded and took over care of the male who by this time was conscious and alert,” said Booth. “Cpl. Lowe’s calm demeanor under pressure and training saved this man’s life.”

Firefighters of the Year included:

• Henry C. Johnson III of the Roxana Volunteer Fire Company

 Johnson joined the Roxana Volunteer Fire Company in June 1968, having served the community for 50 years. He has served as secretary, assistant chief and fire chief. He has also served the Sussex County Volunteer Firefighters Association as secretary or assistant secretary for more than 27 years.

“Henry also served his community as a member of Doric Lodge, president, secretary and director of the Delaware Pork Producers Association, director for the Sussex County Farm Bureau, chairman of four tax ditches, president of the Pepper Family, and chairman of ushers and board member of Salem United Methodist Church,” noted Darin McCann, Coastal Point editor, who helped present last Friday’s awards.

“In addition to all of these roles, he has raised four children with his wife, Mary Lou. His dedication to the fire company and this community is a true testament of his character. Thank you for your 50 years of service…

Additionally, McCann noted, “The Johnson family also has four generations that have served and are serving the Roxana Volunteer Fire Company. Over 260 combined years of service among the family that started when Henry Jr. and Henry III joined in 1968.”

• Chief Engineer Jamey Latchum of the Selbyville Volunteer Fire Company

An active member since 2003, Latchum has held various leadership positions within the company, such as fire lieutenant, assistant chief and a member of the board of directors. He currently holds the position of chief engineer and is a member of the Truck/Ambulance Committee, the Hiring Committee and the Dive Team.

“Jamey is a certified rescue diver and an emergency medical responder,” said McCann. “He has been awarded Top Ambulance and Fire Responder for the past several years. He continuously demonstrates selflessness and a caring image that the public associates with members of the fire service. Jamey is a highly valued member of the Selbyville Volunteer Fire Company.”

• Assistant Chief Thomas Glenn Sr. of the Dagsboro Volunteer Fire Department

Glenn began his service in 1970 Maryland. When his family moved to Dagsboro, he joined the fire department in August 1985.

Over the years he has held many titles, from a Board of Directors member to fire chief. He currently holds the position of assistant chief and heads up the departments yearly fire prevention program for the schools in our district,” said McCann.

“Mr. Glenn has been supported throughout his years in the fire service by his wife, Pam, and children Cindy, Tom and Jason. His check-ins at the station are always with a smile and the question ‘Everything good, do you need anything from me?’ As a lifetime member of the Dagsboro Volunteer Fire Department, his dedication, desire to serve, leadership and caring nature he shows towards his family, fire department, church and community has paved a path that we hope all of current and new members follow.”

• Chief John Wright of the Frankford Volunteer Fire Company

Having joined the company in 1999 and has served in many leadership capacities. He has served as fire chief and on the Ambulance Committee.

“He and a team of four other Sussex County paramedics took home gold medal at the 2018 Journal of Emergency Medical Services (JEMS) Games in Charlotte, N.C., where they competed against 26 teams from across the nation,” said McCann.

“John started his EMS education at Delaware Technical & Community College, and has continued by attending additional college while working for the county as a paramedic, field training officer, and most recently as a paramedic supervisor. His dedication to education (both his own and that of others) is inspiring, and his sense of humor is contagious, his drive unrivaled, and his passion evident.”

• Firefighter Michael Melson of the Millville Volunteer Fire Company

Melson, who returned home this year after serving eight years in the U.S. Marine Corps, “stepped in as an instant leader.”

“Michael has become a top responder while working full-time and willingly leading trainings,” said McCann. “In addition to all this, he has recently taken over the antique apparatuses and has brought them back to life by finding accurate period pieces to restore these antiques to show quality, and preserve pieces of local history.”

EMTs and Paramedics of the Year honored on Feb. 22 included:

• EMT Drew Landuyt of the Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company

In December, Landuyt was part of a crew that responded to a pedestrian struck by a vehicle on Route 1.

“[He] quickly performed a trauma assessment, which revealed serious hemorrhaging from multiple points of origin. After declaring that the patient was breathing and maintaining his own airway, Drew placed a tourniquet on the patient superior to the knee,” said Jim Smith, senior public affairs manager of Delmarva Power and a presenter at the awards.

“Open fractures were bandaged and splinted quickly before rapidly transporting the patient with Sussex County Paramedic Jordan Dattoli to Beebe Medical Center to be stabilized and later flown to Christiana Medical Center. His actions and professionalism under pressure are commendable.”

• Ambulance Capt. Holly Donaway of the Dagsboro Volunteer Fire Department

Dinaway joined the Gumboro Volunteer Fire Company Ladies Auxiliary in 1990 and started her EMS career in 1991 as a volunteer ambulance attendant. She later moved to Dagsboro and joined the town’s volunteer department, where she has served as ambulance captain, ambulance lieutenant and chaired or served on many department committees.

“Holly runs the EMS Division, with multiple volunteer EMTs and supervises five employees employed by the department. She is employed as the EMS supervisor for Mid Sussex Rescue Squad that has eight fulltime and 10 part-time employees,” said Smith.

“Although she leads two EMS divisions, she is involved with additional community service to Alley Cat Dance Studio and Indian River Football Boosters with support of her husband Brandon and two children Collin and Rylee. Holly was recently awarded her lifetime membership with the Dagsboro Volunteer Fire Department, for 20 years of service. Holly has the drive and caring nature to help those in need and serve her community.”

• EMT Keith Baker Sr. of the Millville Volunteer Fire Company

“Keith Baker Sr. is a dedicated member of the career staff, showing up to work 30 to 40 minutes before the start of every shift, ready to give his all,” said Smith. “Keith has worked well with every member of the staff and the membership of the Millville Volunteer Fire Company.

“Keith has assisted in training members of the career staff and members of the fire company with driver’s training, and has worked on the maintenance of equipment keeping the lights flashing and equipment working. He provides compassionate care to patients by taking the time to explain the circumstances and actions being applied. Keith has a great relationship with the Sussex County Paramedics and works well with them in all situations.”

• Rebecca Short of Sussex County Emergency Services

Short was part of a team that responded to a call to a female patient with an altered mental status.

“Most EMS calls are recognized are for extraordinary care or heroic actions performed under duress; however, Rebecca Short was nominated for exemplifying the Sussex County EMS motto of ‘Caring People, Quality Service,’” said presenter Kami Banks-Kane of Banks Wines & Spirits, noting that the care Short offered extended past the ambulance ride.

Short took care of organizing the care of that patient’s dog, working with an animal-control agent to contact the patient’s family, creating a plan for the dog’s housing.

“The family was able to pick up the dog three days later and had it waiting for the owner when she was discharged. The patient reached out to express her deepest gratitude for the compassion that Rebecca showed ensuring that her dog was safely housed and returned to her. Rebecca’s efforts that day went above and beyond the job.”

The event was sponsored by Carl M. Freeman Companies, Banks Wines & Spirits, the Coastal Point, Delmarva Power, NVHomes, Ryan Homes, Mountaire Farms, Beebe Healthcare, Delmarva Broadcasting Company, Atlantic General Hospital, Anne Powell-Keller Williams, County Bank; Creative Concepts, PNC Bank, West Fenwick Car Wash, Sustaining Support LLC and Wilmington University—Georgetown.

Weaver thanked the first-responders in attendance for their service to the community.

“Today, we’ve heard remarkable stories of the commitment, sacrifice and bravery from our first-responders that allows our communities to thrive. While ensuring the safety and well-being of the community remains the most important aspect of their role, the Chamber of Commerce also recognizes the economic impact they have on our business community,” she said.

“Tourists and locals alike have come to rely on and enjoy our small slice of heaven that we know as the Quiet Resorts for its safe, friendly and peaceful way of life. What you do matters on so many levels, and you are deeply appreciated by your community!”


By Maria Counts

Staff Reporter