Public Safety

PHOTOS: The Chamber ALX’s Valor Awards Recognize Alexandria’s First Responders


Police Chief Don Hayes, Sheriff Sean Casey, Inova Alexandria Hospital President Dr. Rina Bansal, Fire Chief Corey Smedley (Photo: Joshua Reed/Jason Dixson Photography).

Alexandria, VA – On Thursday, June 1, Inova Alexandria Hospital presented The Chamber ALX’s 2023 Valor Awards, in which safety personnel dedicated to protecting lives in the community, were recognized for their service and bravery. The event took place at the National Industries for the Blind. One hundred twenty attendees acknowledge the selfless acts performed by awardees. VIPs in attendance included Mayor Justin Wilson, Vice Mayor Amy Jackson, Councilwoman Alyia Gaskins, Sheriff Sean Casey, Police Chief Don Hayes, Fire Chief Corey Smedley, City Manager Jim Parajon, and Fairfax County Commander Dalton Becker.

Event Emcee and NBC News Correspondent Aaron Gilchrist (Photo: Joshua Reed/Jason Dixson Photography).

Aaron Gilchrist of NBC News emceed the event. According to Joe Haggerty, President and CEO of the ALX Chamber, Gilchrist served to “Try and shine a light on the incidents that these brave young men and women were faced with.” The emcee relayed each story involving the honorees valiant actions actions.

(L-R) Silver Medal Recipient Officer Phillip Morse, Live Saving Award Recipient Officer Lemar Gardizi, & Live Saving Award Recipient Daniel Zapata (Photo: Joshua Reed/Jason Dixson Photography).

Members of the Alexandria Fire and Police Departments, as well as the Sheriff’s Office, and Department of Emergency Communications, were all in attendance. Awardees were nominated by their peers. peers, including Officers Lemar Gardizi and Daniel Zapata (shown above). Each officer received the Life Saving Award for their quick response to an Old Town community member suffering from a gunshot wound Fortunately, Zapata and Gardizis, recognizing the severity of the injury, put a tourniquet on the citizen, and kept the individual  alert until an ambulance arrived.

(L-R) Officer Daniel Zapata, Lesley Morse, Officer Phillip Morse, Phillip Morse, Sr., and Dan Nichols (Photo: Joshua Reed/Jason Dixson Photography).

Officer Phillip Morse (shown above) received a Silver Medal award for placing himself in danger in order to protect a family from burglary and a double homicide. He worked with Officers Adam Bing, Robert Honaker, Kevin Gemmell, and K9 Ajax for the first time during the incident.. Each man (and Ajax!) received Silver Medal Awards for their services.

(L-R) Peggy Fox of Dominion Energy, Community Valor Award Recipient Kristyn Peck of Lutheran Social Services National Capital Area, and Chamber CEO Joe Haggerty (Photo: Joshua Reed/Jason Dixson Photography).

For their dedication and service, The Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area (LSSNCA) was also recognized during this event for its service to the community. The social services organization has programs that assist refugees, children, immigrants, and forced migrants within the DMV area. The organization provides job training for people in need. This means those unemployed can find jobs, giving them more opportunities in life. This year alone, LSSNCA has established a community hub based in the West End. This resource center offers cultural orientation, support groups and collects donations that are often overlooked – kitchen goods, personal hygiene items, and children’s necessities.

Life Saving Award Recipients Captain Dave Cutting, Deputy Joseph Walker, and Sergeant Victor Ignacio alongside Sheriff Sean Casey (Photo: Joshua Reed/Jason Dixson Photography).

Captain Dave Cutting, Deputy Joseph Walker, and Sergeant Victor Ignacio (shown above) received Life Saving Awards. When Walker noticed something amiss while texting an off-duty colleague, he alerted Cutting and Ignacio, who took over the phone call to conduct crisis negotiations. The three worked iwith Emergency Communications to track the phone’s location. Theis teamwork allowed the men to rescue their colleagues.

(L-R) Department of Emergency Customer Communications Director Renee Gordon, Life Saving Award Recipient Public Safety Communications Officer II Autumn Harding, and Chamber CEO Joe Haggerty (Photo: Joshua Reed/Jason Dixson Photography).

Last September, Public Safety Communications Officer Autumn Harding received a phone call she would likely never forget. A 9-1-1 call reached Harding one morning. A man’s wife had just gone into labor. The Alexandria Fire Department was contacted immediately, but  Harding remained on the line with the husband, offering him pre-arrival instructions. With her guidance, the baby was born minutes later, and  the family was safely transported to the hospital. For her actions, Harding was presented with a Life Saving Award.

(L-R) Life Saving Award Recipients Sergeant Brian Wade and Master Deputy Hafsa Munir. (Photo: Joshua Reed/Jason Dixson Photography).

While these brief stories highlight honorees, many more Life Saving Awards were presented. For example,  and Sergeant Brian Wade When an inmate at an Adult Detention Center underwent a medical emergency, Master Deputy Hafsa Munir called for Sergeant Brian Wade to assist in getting the inmate the help he needed, keeping all involved safe during the emergency. Munir and Wade’s quick thinking and actions prevented further harm and death of the inmate.

“It’s important to recognize the works and service performed by our Fire Department, Police Department, Sheriff’s Office, and Department of Emergency Communications,” Haggerty said.

First responders put themselves in danger daily to keep the community safe, so it is more than approriate to recognize them for going above and beyond in the line of duty.

FOR MORE: What Events Are Planned to Celebrate Juneteenth in Alexandria?

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