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For Immediate Release
DHS Press Office
WASHINGTON— Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson today presented the new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary’s Award for Valor to ten employees who have displayed exceptional courage and valor either while serving the Department, or while off-duty acting only as a concerned citizen willing to help a fellow American in need.
“Today we highlight the character and integrity of our people within DHS, exemplified by ten individuals across the Department who have responded selflessly, concerned not for themselves, but with doing whatever they could to help others,” said Secretary Johnson. “Many have told us that the specialized training they received from the Department not only equipped them to do their job safely, but that it also played a role in the unfolding events which led to being honored here today. These actions, which saved lives, exemplify the spirit and mission of the Department of Homeland Security and underscore the commitment the Department’s employees make everyday.”
Joined by Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and DHS senior leadership at the White House, Secretary Johnson recognized ten individuals for their actions of bravery and courage during 2013 and 2014. Their selfless actions saved individuals from harm, rescued another’s life, and protected infrastructure in support of the nation’s security. Nominations for the award came from peers and leadership throughout the Department, including both civilian and military personnel.
The following individuals, listed by component order, received the Secretary’s Award for Valor, the highest recognition from the Department for extraordinary acts of valor:
Jari J. Karttunen, Assistant Attaché, Herat, Afghanistan, U.S. Customs and Border Protection
On September 13, 2013, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Assistant Attaché Karttunen awoke to a 5,000 pound vehicle borne improvised explosive device detonating at the front gates of the United States Consulate in Herat, Afghanistan. In response to this attack by Taliban insurgents, Karttunen immediately secured all entrances and safeguarded Consulate personnel who were unable to escape from their living quarters. Once Consulate personnel were secure, he returned to the main entrance and stood watch with Consulate security until U.S. and coalition military forces arrived to secure the grounds.
Carl Wegierski, Air Interdiction Agent, Hammond, Louisiana, U.S. Customs and Border Protection
On October 12, 2013, CBP Air Interdiction Agent Wegierski was asked to assist with the search for a 13 year old girl with special needs who had been reported as missing from a nearby Girl Scout Camp. From a helicopter, Agent Wegierski spotted the young girl in a nearby lake with water up to her neck. He and Captain Stewart Murphy jumped from a helicopter, swam approximately 40 yards to reach the girl, and swam another 30 yards to shore, saving the child from drowning.
Christopher Cronen – Deputy Field Office Director – Boston Field Office, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
On his return from a weekend skiing trip on March 9, 2014, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Boston Field Office Deputy Director Christopher Cronen responded to a roll-over accident that had occurred at a toll booth in New Hampshire. With the assistance of Air Force personnel who had also stopped to help, Cronen pulled back the sunroof and safely removed from the burning car the driver, who was buckled in, unconscious, and bleeding, as well as two young boys.
Matthew Malmquist - Special Agent, Homeland Security Investigations, Bush Airport, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
On the afternoon of May 2, 2013, a Beaumont, Texas man entered the Bush International Airport and fired two rounds of ammunition from a handgun into the terminal. ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent Malmquist was sitting nearby in the HSI Airport Group Office, and quickly exited to respond to the shooting. A man in a wheelchair was positioned just twenty yards from the shooter, preventing SA Malmquist from shooting immediately. Malmquist repositioned himself to be more visible to the shooter, firing a shot at the same time the shooter took his own life.
William Bronsteen - Special Agent, Homeland Security Investigations, Jersey City, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
On December 11, 2013, ICE HSI Special Agent William Bronsteen witnessed a motor vehicle accident resulting in multiple injuries. He immediately blocked the intersection with his own vehicle to prevent further accidents. When he noticed smoke coming from one of the cars, he removed the driver and dragged him approximately 30 feet to safety. A victim in the second car had sustained extensive injuries. Special Agent Bronsteen retrieved his medical bags and began administering first aid until additional medical personnel arrived.
Eddie Palacios, Checked Baggage Supervisor, Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Transportation Security Administration
On April 2, 2014, while waiting for a train to work, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Supervisor Eddie Palacios heard individuals yelling that a woman had fallen onto the tracks. Palacios jumped onto the tracks and into harm’s way, and waved his arms to get the attention of the oncoming train’s conductor. The train came to a stop approximately 20 feet from Palacios. The woman who had fallen was removed from the tracks and taken to a nearby hospital. Palacios explained his tardiness to his supervisor simply by saying, “…somebody needed help at the train station, so I helped them.”
Jesse Meerscheidt, Chief Petty Officer, Corpus Christi, TX, U.S. Coast Guard
On Oct. 8, 2013, U.S. Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Jesse Meerscheidt observed a head-on collision involving two vehicles on his way to work. One of the cars spun off the road and into the Intracoastal Waterway. The other car rolled over twice and caught fire. Chief Petty Officer Meerscheidt immediately attempted to put out the fire with his fire extinguisher and then broke the car’s window with his elbow to rescue the woman. Unable to free her and increasingly concerned for her welfare, Chief Petty Officer Meerscheidt “bear hugged” the shattered window and removed it from its housing, successfully rescued the woman, and carried her to safety.
Officer Bryan J. Koenig, Officer William E. Grimmer, and Officer Thomas A. Hammond, U.S. Secret Service
On Thursday, April 24, 2014, U.S. Secret Service officers Bryan Koenig, William Grimmer and Thomas Hammond observed a woman lying unconscious at the corner of 17th St. and Pennsylvania Ave., NW, in Washington, D.C. The officers immediately responded, administering CPR and using a defibrillator to resuscitate her when it was discovered she no longer had a pulse. Medical personal eventually arrived and the victim began breathing again on her own.
For more information, visit www.dhs.gov.