Chicago firefighters, police honored for bravery

City officials presented the top awards for extraordinary bravery to Chicago police officers and firefighters Tuesday morning at a ceremony at City Hall.
October 8, 2013 3:09:25 PM PDT
City officials presented the top awards for extraordinary bravery to Chicago police officers and firefighters Tuesday morning at a ceremony at City Hall.

It's a tradition that dates back nearly 130 years, a special recognition for Chicago firefighters and police officers, who were honored for their exemplary service during a ceremony. They were given awards by their superiors, who described their extraordinary bravery in the line of duty.

"As the fire commissioner, I want to thank you for your passion and courage. You make all of us very proud to wear this uniform," said Jose Santiago, Chicago fire commissioner.

Chicago Fire Department Lieutenant John Majka seemed uneasy with all of the attention.

"A little overwhelmed honestly. I'd much rather be at the firehouse right now," said Majka.

Majka and firefighter Anthony Locato both received the Lambert Tree Award, the fire department's top honor. In October of last year, they rushed in to a burning house on the far South Side, rescuing a 94-year-old, bedridden woman before water was supplied to put out the fire.

"Two of us are made heroes today, but every fireman who was at that incident is a hero. They all did their job and that's the reason we were able to rescue that lady," said Locato.

Oftentimes, that job means facing great danger.

"The men and women who meet the demands of this profession routinely perform rare acts of bravery," said Supt. Garry McCarthy, Chicago Police Dept.

Police officers Ruben del Valle and Jeffrey Frieldlieb were presented the Carter Harrison Award - the department's top honor - for pursuing and shooting a drug suspect in West Garfield Park two years ago after he shot both of them.

"The first thing on my mind is we're still moving, get up on our feet and chase this guy," said del Valle.

Friedlieb still has a bullet lodged behind his left ear.

"When I saw him get shot and I got shot, I was worried about him, then worried about myself," said Friedlieb.

The suspect in that shooting was arrested and charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder.


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