For Once, A Good News Story About the Homeland Security Department

“These awardees responded selflessly in extraordinary circumstances to help others in need, and I am honored to thank them today on behalf of this proud Department," said DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson. “These awardees responded selflessly in extraordinary circumstances to help others in need, and I am honored to thank them today on behalf of this proud Department," said DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson. Homeland Security Department

Thirteen Homeland Security employees who helped save people from fires, car crashes, and drowning received the department’s highest award for acts of valor.

The employees, stationed across the United States and in Senegal, are from four of Homeland Security’s agencies: Citizenship and Immigration Services; the Coast Guard; Immigration and Customs Enforcement; and the Transportation Security Administration. Many of the incidents occurred while the employees were off duty, or on travel.

For instance, Transportation Security Officer Gloria Betts came to the aid of a Florida highway patrol trooper who was shot at a gas station. Betts was returning from a vacation in Key West at the time. Another TSO, Justin Sawhill from Pennsylvania, came upon a fire on his way home, saving a woman and her four young children. Benjamin Jacober, a petty officer in the Coast Guard based in Portsmouth, Va., was off-duty in Panama when he saw two women in distress in the water. He jumped into the water, saving one woman from drowning, while a lifeguard rescued the other person.

“On a routine basis, I’ve been consistently impressed with the repeated acts of valor committed by our DHS people, across our components, whether on or off duty,” DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said during a Friday awards ceremony.  “I want everyone who is receiving this award, which is the highest award I can give for an act of valor, to know how proud we all are of you for how you represent us in the Department of Homeland Security.”

DHS is often criticized for being a dysfunctional agency with abysmal morale, but as the department likes to remind its critics, there are many good things employees do routinely that don’t make the news.

In addition to Betts, Sawhill, and Jacober, the other 2016 Award for Valor recipients were:

  • William Adamson, Enforcement and Removal Operations, ICE
  • Kevin Carmen, Office of Law Enforcement/Federal Air Marshal Service, TSA
  • John Chiartas III, Office of Law Enforcement/Federal Air Marshal Service, TSA
  • Jeffrey Ellis, Homeland Security Investigations, International Operations Division, ICE
  • Jackie Hisey, California Service Center, Citizenship and Immigration Services
  • Brendan Lundt, Homeland Security Investigations, ICE
  • Joseph Perkins, Coast Guard
  • Matthew Silverman, Office of Law Enforcement/Federal Air Marshal Service, TSA
  • George Sullivan, assistant field office director in Boston, Mass., ICE
  • Jennifer Tran, California Service Center, Citizenship and Immigration Services

Click here to read more about the award recipients and their acts of valor.

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