At a White House ceremony on May 17, President Joe Biden awarded the Medal of Valor, the nation’s highest honor for bravery by a public safety officer, to nine first responders, including two NYPD officers who were killed in the line of duty.
The recipients, including both law enforcement and firefighters, were honored for their exceptional acts of courage, with Biden commending them for going above and beyond the call of duty.
During the ceremony, President Biden expressed his gratitude to the honorees.
“From small towns to big cities, you’re cut from the same cloth. You run into danger when everyone else runs away from danger.”
Among the recipients were NYPD Officer Wilbert Mora and his partner, Jason Rivera, who were fatally shot while responding to a family dispute in a Harlem apartment.
Officer Sumit Sulan, who took down the gunman, was also honored for his bravery. Biden addressed the families of the fallen officers, thanking them for their sacrifices.
Highlighting the challenges faced by law enforcement, Biden stated: “I think one of the hardest jobs in America is what you signed up for. You represent the best of who we are as Americans.”
Additionally, he emphasized the need for police reform, while acknowledging the importance of providing law enforcement with proper funding and resources.
Other recipients included New York City firefighters Lieutenant Justin Hespeler and Patrick Thornton, who respectively rescued a newborn from a burning house and a man trapped under a capsized vessel.
Firefighter Lieutenant Jason Hickey was also honored for his heroic rescue of a man who was drowning in the Harlem River.
The remaining recipients of the Medal of Valor included Corporal Jeffrey Farmer of the Littleton, Colorado, Police Department, who saved his injured partner by rushing him to the hospital after a shootout with a suspect. Deputy Bobby Hau Pham of the Clermont County, Ohio, Sheriff’s Office, was recognized for rescuing a drowning woman despite not knowing how to swim.
Sergeant Kendrick Simpo of the Houston, Texas, Police Department, apprehended an armed suspect at a mall, preventing any harm to a group of children attending a dance competition.
Attorney General Merrick Garland praised the recipients for their extraordinary valor and acknowledged the important role played by their families in supporting their work.
“At the end of every shift, you are there,” he addressed the families. “It is your care and encouragement that makes it possible for our public safety officers to do their jobs. We are so grateful to you.”
President Biden concluded the ceremony with these words: “You represent the best of us. You represent the heart, the soul and the spirit of what it means to protect and serve.”
The ceremony took place during National Police Week, from May 14 to 20.