President Biden on Monday awarded the Medal of Valor to 15 public safety officers, including a police officer and firefighter who died in the line of duty, and paid tribute to a retired police officer who died in the mass shooting in Buffalo, N.Y., over the weekend.
Biden recognized the medal recipients during an East Room ceremony, the first such event in almost three years after the past two ceremonies were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I know you don’t do this work for recognition, but you reflect the best part of who we are as Americans,” Biden said in prepared remarks. “These medals reflect the profound gratitude of our nation.”
According to the White House, the recipients include an Ohio firefighter, Ryan Sprunger, who saved three people who had fallen into a frozen pond; a New York City firefighter, Abraham Miller, who rappelled down a burning building to rescue a 5-year-old; and a Florida police officer who while on vacation saved swimmers trapped in the ocean.
Two of the officers, Jason Shuping and Jared Lloyd, were killed in the line of duty. Shuping, a North Carolina police officer, was shot and killed when responding to a possible carjacking in 2020. Lloyd, a New York firefighter, died while helping rescue residents from a burning nursing home in 2021.
Biden made a point Monday to recognize the families of the fallen officers, asking them to stand as the audience offered a round of applause.
The president also honored Aaron Salter, a retired Buffalo police officer who was serving as a security guard at a local Tops Friendly Market when a gunman opened fire on patrons Saturday afternoon in what authorities have deemed a racially motivated hate crime. Salter exchanged fire with the gunman and was shot and killed.
“No one understands more than all of you here today the pain and anguish those families in Buffalo feel,” Biden, who is slated to travel to Buffalo on Tuesday, said. “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, it’s hard.”
The Medal of Valor is the highest award given to public safety officers in the U.S.
“The public safety officers we honor today are true heroes. They put themselves in danger to protect their communities and fellow officers,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said at Monday’s ceremony before introducing Biden.
The event is typically held annually but, because of the ongoing pandemic, the last ceremony was held by then-President Trump in 2019. The group honored Monday included recipients from the past two years.
The ceremony took place during National Police Week.
Source: The Hill