It started out as a small gathering 32 years ago recognizing the heroic acts of a group of men and women in public safety roles. Loudoun’s Chamber of Commerce, like others in Virginia who sponsor similar programs, called it the Valor Awards, and it has become the most high profile and well-attended annual ceremony in Loudoun County.
This year’s Valor Awards will be held on April 6, and nominations are now being solicited from the community. They can also be submitted through the online form on the chamber’s web site and should be about events that took place in 2016.
“The Annual Valor Awards is the Loudoun County Chamber’s proudest tradition, because it provides our members the privilege of honoring our community’s emergency first responders and those ordinary citizens whose heroic and selfless actions, often in the face of great peril, have saved lives and kept our community safe,” President Tony Howard said in a release.
“Every day, fire and rescue, emergency, and law enforcement personnel put on their uniforms and do lifesaving work. Career and volunteer personnel go to work knowing their job may require them to put their lives on the line to keep people safe. Even more extraordinary, ordinary Loudoun County citizens sometimes rise up to do the same, with little to no professional training, and the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce would like to recognize as many of these individuals as possible,” he said.
All career and volunteer law enforcement, fire and rescue personnel from agencies within the county – including those affiliated with the towns, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and Virginia State Police – and citizens who live or work in the county are eligible for a Valor Award.
After nominations are collected, a committee of chamber members and representatives from local public safety organizations get together to decide who gets an award, and at what level. The public safety officials are instructive when it comes to differentiating what actions are above and beyond the norm, Howard told The Tribune.
“Quite candidly, if they left it up to the civilians in the room, we’d give an award to everyone,” Howard said. “When they save a life, run into a burning building, or do the various things law enforcement personnel do to keep people safe, they view it as routine. So we need their help to determine what is not routine.”
The number of people awarded varies from year to year, but typically, between 40 to 60 people receive awards, Howard said. In past years as many as 100 have been honored.
Howard remembers one particular year where two incidents involved swift water rescues. That year, there had been above average rainfall and flooding. Each water rescue involved about 20 combined career and volunteer personnel, all who risked their lives to rescue civilians.
In addition to honoring career and volunteer personnel, the chamber also looks to honor civilians whose actions have saved lives and kept people safe. It sometimes relies on stories in newspapers to identify such civilians, but mainly on people to submit nominations.
“When you put on a uniform, you kind of anticipate that there could be a CPR call, a fire, a burglary, a traffic accident, because that’s what you decided to do for a living so there’s not surprise there. But for regular civilians that’s not the case,” Howard said.
All nominations are due by Jan. 6.