U.S. President Biden’s Remarks at Medal Of Valor Ceremony

The White House

East Room

11:52 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, General. Thank you very much. And welcome to the White House, everyone.

The Attorney General Garland’s introduction is incredibly worthwhile. We’re here to recognize your leadership and all you’ve done.

You know, we’re also joined by Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco — is here — and the Drug Enforcement Agency, Anne Milgram. Where’s Anne? Anne is in the back.

And I would like to thank members of Congress here today: Senator Chris Murphy — Chris. And I also want to — Jim — Jimmy Himes — Jim Himes is here with us today. And Congressman Adriano Es- — Espla-nat. And — Espaillat — excuse me. You can call me Bid-en. (Laughter.) We’ve known each other so long, and I still stumbled. I apologize.

It’s good to see you all.

And, you know, they represent members of — and the districts that many of you are from.

And, of course, we’re honored to be joined by law enforcement and firefighter leaders from all across the country.

We can never fully thank you for your service or for your sacrifice. But today is an important day for the nation to give thanks for all that you do for everymony [sic] — for all of us.

Because of COVID-19, we couldn’t have this special ceremony for the past two years. But I’m honored that we finally can today honor 15 — 15 public safety officers from eight different departments with the Medal of Valor, the highest award a President can bestow on a public safety officer.

This designation reads, and I quote: “For action above and beyond the call of duty; and exhibiting exceptional courage, extraordinary decisiveness and presence of mind, or unusual swiftness [in] action, regardless of his or her personal safety, in an attempt to save or protect human life.” End of quote.

That’s valor. That’s valor.

To the honorees: I — I don’t know all of you personally, but I do know you.

Growing up, you’re the ones who, when we were outnumbered three to one, you jumped in. No, you did. I — I grew up in a neighborhood where you either became a cop, a firefighter, or a priest. I wasn’t qualified for any of them, so here I am. (Laughter.)

But, you know, and you jumped in to help the one. Not a joke. Think about — and your parents can attest to it. You were the ones to run into help when everyone else ran away, even before you became involved in firefighting or law enforcement.

As adults, you’re the first ones to volunteer to coach a Little League team or shovel your neighbor or elderly neighbor’s driveway or walkway when it snows.

You’re the heart and soul and the very spine — the very spine of this country and your communities.

Each one of you, from small-town departments to big cities, you’re cut from the same cloth. You possess a selflessness that’s really hard to explain. A rare commitment to your neighbors and your fellow Americans. An unusual bravery that inspires everyone. And — and you’ve been singled out because of your extraordinary heroism.

In a few moments, a full citation of your valor will be read. But this is who you are. You plunged into icy lake waters and dove into choppy oceans to save people who were drowning. You faced a hail of gunfire to save your colleagues. You climbed burning buildings to save a baby and more than 100 senior citizens. You drew fire to yourself — to yourself — to save a hostage.

And you did all this without concern for your own safety, thinking only of somebody else — the other.

You know, you’ve gone above and beyond. I think it’s instinctive. Because this job isn’t just what you do, it’s who you all are. It’s really who you are.

But we also know you didn’t do this alone. To the parents who are here today, you get — you set a standard for remarkable public safety officers. They didn’t just get this by osmosis; they got it through all of you. Something about the example you set made them want to do what they do.

I want to thank you moms and dads here for teaching your children the values that we honor today, because what we’re honoring is their basic values.

And I want to — I want to thank the spouses and the children of the honorees. It takes a special person to marry or a child — to be the child of a firefighter or a law enforcement officer. How many times have you sat in front of the steps of the house when the city lights have gone out, and you turn to your husband or your wife, holding your kids and say, “We’ll be fine. We’ll be fine. Go do your job. Go do your job”?

You know, when your loved — when your loved one puts on that shield and walks out the door each day, every family member dreads the possibility of receiving that phone call, knowing the uncertainty that faces you as they walk out the door.

So today, from the bottom of our hearts, we thank you, the spouses, the children of the public safety officers. And I really mean it.

And there are two families in particular I want to acknowledge. Two of our honorees, Officer Jason Shuping and Lieutenant Jared Lloyd, are not with us today because they gave their lives in the full service to their communities and this nation.

To their families — unless you would rather not, I’d like you to stand so everybody can see you. (Applause.)

On behalf of the American people, my wife Jill and I want to extend our love. We know from personal but different experience that these events are really bittersweet. It brings everything back as if you just got the news. You’re proud, but it’s hard.

Just yesterday, I stood at the United States Capitol for the National Police[Peace] Officers’ Memorial Service to pay tribute to hundreds of fallen heroes. And I was joined by the President of the Fraternal Order of Pres- — Police, Patrick Yoes, who is here today. I don’t know where Patrick is, but I know he’s here today.

There you go, Patrick. Thank you for yesterday, and thank you for today.

We pay tribute to all the law enforcement officers and their families who understand what it takes, what’s at risk to save and protect all of us.

And that includes paying tribute to the Buffalo Police Officer Aaron Salter — Slater [Salter], excuse me — who gave his life trying to save others when a gunman shot and killed 10 innocent people in a grocery store in Buffalo on Saturday. He actually was able to shoot the assailant twice, but he had on a — he had on a bulletproof vest. And he lost his life in the process.

No one understands more than all of you here today the pain and anguish those families in Buffalo feel. But if they were pulled into a — as if — when it happens, at least in my experience, you feel like you’re pulled into a black hole inside your chest and everything — everything you can’t — and it’s hard.

But as you know, you’re part of a special community — a special community because the firefighters and police officers will always be there for you. I know it’s a small consolation, but they’ll always be there for you and your family and your children and your grandchildren and the whole family.

To talk about law enforcement being a family, about firefighters being a family, it’s real — just like being a military family. It’s unbreakable.

There is a headstone in a cemetery in Ireland that reads: “Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory that no one can steal.”

To the families of the fallen, no one can ever steal the memory of your loved one.

And I hope the day will come when the memory of your lost dad, son, husband brings a smile to your lips before it brings the tear to your eye. I promise you, it will come, but, you know, my prayer is it comes sooner than later.

You know, I want to say a special thanks to the — to you all for being here because I know it’s hard and — but understand all the people in this room and all the people listening, they understand the sacrifices that not only that — that your spouse made, your son made, but you make every day.

And all the families that are here — like I said, when that alarm goes off, when the bell sounds, you all wish them well, but you know and you worry. Thank you for all you do.

I’d like to conclude with this. There is an incredible group of 15 heroes. I know you don’t do this work for recognition, but you reflect the best part of who we are as Americans. These medals reflect the profound gratitude of our nation. It’s the highest medal that can be honored.

So, God bless you all. May God protect our firefighters and law enforcement officers and their families everywhere.

And it’s now my honor now to award these medals and ask the military aides to read the citations. Thank you. (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE: Assistant Chief Ryan Sprunger.

Assistant Chief Ryan Sprunger of the East Wayne, Ohio, Fire Depart- — District was off duty when he responded to a call about several individuals who fell into a frozen pond. Without any thermal protection and equipped with nothing but a throw rope, Assistant Chief Sprunger jumped into the freezing water to rescue the victims: a grandfather and his two grandchildren. He pulled the grandfather and one child out, and guided medics who arrived to the second child, demonstrating extraordinary courage to save lives. (Applause.)

(The Medal of Valor is presented.)

Officers Ryan Smith, Vincent Mendoza, and Robert Paul.

Officers Ryan Smith, Vincent Mendoza, and Robert Paul III of the California Highway Patrol were caught in a gunfight with a violent assailant who had shot and killed their colleague in an unprovoked attack during a traffic stop. The officers went to incredible lengths to protect each other, even as Officer Smith and Officer Paul each sustained multiple gunshot wounds to their legs. Officer Mendoza engaged the suspect so his wounded colleagues could evacuate safely, all three of them demonstrating bravery and composure while enduring a deadly rampage. (Applause.)

(The Medals of Valor are presented.) (Applause.)

Firefighter Abraham “Abe” Miller.

Firefighter Abraham Miller of the New York City Fire Department rappelled down — down the roof of a burning residential building, without a solid anchor for his rope, to rescue a five-year-old girl being held out a window by her grandmother. Firefighter Miller smashed the glass, reached through heavy smoke, and saved the little girl as they were lowered six floors to safety, demonstrating brave and decisive action to save lives. (Applause.)

(The Medal of Valor is presented.) (Applause.)

Haylee Shuping, accepting on behalf of fallen Officer Jason Shuping; and Officers Kyle Baker, Paul Stackenwalt, and Kaleb Robinson.

Fallen Officer Jason Shuping and Officers Kyle Baker, Paul Stackenwalt, and Kaleb Robinson of the Concord, North Carolina, Police Department engaged a suspect in a busy retail area who opened fire on the officers and took a woman hostage. The officers fired at the suspect to turn attention away from their colleagues and shielding each other with their own bodies until they ended the threat. During the gunfight, Officer Shuping paid the ultimate sacrifice. All four men demonstrated courageous action in a volatile encounter with a gunman to protect the public. (Applause.)

(The Medals of Valor are presented.) (Applause.)

Deputy Sheriff Dalton Rushing.

Deputy Sheriff Dalton Rushing of the Perry County, Ohio, Sheriff’s Office plunged into a frozen lake to rescue a person who had fallen through the ice and remained stuck in hypothermic conditions for 45 minutes. When the victim couldn’t grab on — on to him and said he was prepared to give up, Deputy Rushing tied a rope to the victim and submerged himself into the icy water until rescuers could pull them both to shore, demonstrating courageous action and uncommon poise to save lives. (Applause.)

(The Medal of Valor is presented.) (Applause.)

Sabrail Davenport, mother of Fallen 2nd Lieutenant Jared Lloyd.

Fallen 2nd Lieutenant Jared Lloyd of the Spring Valley, New York, Fire Department repeatedly rushed into a burning nursing home to carry out elderly residents who couldn’t escape in their wheelchairs and walkers. Along with his team, Lieutenant Lloyd rescued all 112 residents. As flames engulfed the building, Lieutenant Lloyd ran back in one more time to make sure no residents were trapped, ultimately sacrificing his life as the building collapsed and demonstrating heroic actions to protect innocent civilians. (Applause.)

(The Medal of Valor is presented.) (Applause.)

Firefighters John Colandro, Michael Rosero, and Chad Titus.

Firefighters John Colandro, Michael Rosero, and Chad Titus of the Stamford, Connecticut, Fire Department drove [dove] into freezing water during a blizzard to rescue two trapped occupants of a truck that was rapidly sinking below the waterline. After rescuing one victim, the truck fully submerged and, facing strong offshore winds, the rescul- — rescuers then broke a glass window while underwater and successfully pulled the remaining passenger out to safety. All three men demonstrated extraordinary courage to save accident victims. (Applause.)

(The Medals of Valor are presented.) (Applause.)

Officer Anthony Giorgio.

Officer Anthony Giorgio of the Pensacola, Florida, Police Department, while on a beach vacation with his family, heard screams coming from the water as swimmers were pummeled by tall, crashing waves. Officer Giorgio ran into the dangerous rip current and brought a child back to shore. He then jumped back in the water several more times and, in total, swam approximately 300 yards and successfully rescued two children and one adult in distress, putting himself in grave danger to save lives. (Applause.)

(The Medal of Valor is presented.) (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: A vacation he’ll never forget. (Laughter.)

I would like to give one last round of applause to the recipients of the Medal of Valor. (Applause.)

Thank you all for your service and sacrifice.

And may God bless you, keep you safe. And may God protect all firefighters and all police officers. Like I said, you’re — you’re the character of the country, and you’re the best of all of them. Thank you all for being here. Appreciate it. (Applause.)

ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, please remain in your seats as the President departs.

THE PRESIDENT: (Inaudible.) (Off-mic.) (Laughter.) Thanks, everybody. I really mean it. (Applause.) (Inaudible.) Thank you.

12:18 P.M. EDT

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