SPRINGFIELD – Firefighters from across the state gathered in Springfield today to remember four firefighters who died in service and honor 27 other firefighters for their outstanding bravery and service to their communities during the 14th annual Illinois Fallen Firefighter Memorial and Firefighting Medal of Honor Ceremony.
Retired Colonel Jill Morgenthaler, deputy chief of staff for public safety for Governor Rod R. Blagojevich, addressed the large crowd of firefighters and family members on behalf of the Governor.
“The amazing bravery demonstrated by the firefighters being recognized here today proves that it takes an extraordinary person to be a firefighter,” Morgenthaler said. “Day in and day out, these men and women put their lives on the line to protect us, and on behalf of Governor Blagojevich, I am very proud to thank each of you for your dedication to public safety. Today we’re also reminded of the dangers of this noble profession, as we solemnly honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice and lost their lives in the line of duty.”
The ceremony began in the State Capitol Complex area with the presentation of colors and an invocation at the Illinois Fallen Firefighter Memorial, followed by a processional to the nearby Howlett Building for the awards ceremony.
Four firefighters who died in, or as a result of, the performance of duty were honored during the ceremonies as their families were presented with the Duty Death Gold Badge by State Fire Marshal David Foreman. Those recognized included the late Roger Armstrong, a firefighter with the Atlanta Fire Protection District (FPD); the late Jeff Irwin, a firefighter with the Eldorado Fire Department (FD); the late Dana MacCrimmon, a firefighter with the Carbondale FD; and the late Harold Taylor, Assistant Fire Chief of the Central Warren County FPD.
State Fire Marshal Foreman also presented the Medal of Honor awards, the highest award given to firefighters by the state of Illinois, to four firefighters who were selected for their acts of outstanding bravery or heroism, by which they demonstrated selflessness and personal courage above and beyond the call of duty, under adverse conditions, with the possibility of extreme personal risk. Recipients include:
• Firefighter Thomas Garswick, Chicago FD
• Lieutenant Herbert Johnson, Chicago FD
• Lieutenant Joseph Kish, Chicago FD
• Driver Todd Warrick, Jacksonville FD
In addition, two firefighters were recognized for acts of heroism or bravery that clearly demonstrated courage and dedication in the face of danger. Medal of Valor award recipients include:
• Captain Daniel McDermott, Chicago FD
• Firefighter Alejandro Mercado, Chicago FD
Twelve firefighters received the Firefighter Excellence Award for an act of service in the line of duty, demonstrating excellence and professionalism in service to the citizens of the State of Illinois. Recipients include:
• Lieutenant Daniel Ferguson, Chicago FD
• Firefighter Mark Pecor, Chicago FD
• Firefighter Kevin Wirtz, Chicago FD
• Firefighter William Reiter, Edwardsville FD
• Probationary Firefighter Matthew Sinnokrak, Edwardsville FD
• Firefighter/Paramedic John Hutchison, Glenview FD
• Lieutenant Paul Klicker, Glenview FD
• Probationary Firefighter Scott Waddle, Glenview FD
• Firefighter Kevin Holman, Morris FPD
• Captain Jeff Wilson, Morris FPD
• Firefighter John Burns, Pekin FD
• Engineer Jami Lusher, Pekin FD
• Lieutenant Tom Robertson, Wilmette FD
Certificate of Recognition awards acknowledge those nominated for awards for their dedication to the principles and traditions of the fire service. The 12 Certificate of Recognition award recipients include:
• Engineer Glenn McAuliff, Country Club Hills FD
• Firefighter/Paramedic Carl Pycz, Country Club Hills FD
• Firefighter/Paramedic Robert Olszewski, Crystal Lake Fire Rescue
• Firefighter/Paramedic Matthew Thuma, Crystal Lake Fire Rescue
• Firefighter Marcos Enriques, Morris FPD
• Captain Timothy Smeltzer, Northbrook FD
• Firefighter/Paramedic Scott Ewen, Wilmette FD
• Firefighter/Paramedic Dave Grajewski, Wilmette FD
The awards presented today recognized heroic actions during 2006. Nominations were reviewed and winners selected by the eight-member Illinois Firefighting Medal of Honor Committee.