At Fairfield's annual awards ceremony honoring the town's police and firefighters for their service, a local man who is a Stamford police officer got the standing ovation.
Fairfield resident Troy Strauser was on duty in Stamford on May 17 when he began pursuing a robbery suspect. That pursuit ended when Strauser plunged 20 feet from an Interstate 95 bridge abutment in Norwalk, suffering severe injuries when he landed on his face and arm.
Police Chief Gary MacNamara called Strauser and his family to the stage at the start of the ceremony, citing his performance as an example of the unpredictability of any day on the job for emergency personnel. "It's not always easy and sometimes it can be downright dangerous," MacNamara said.
An emotional Strauser thanked fellow first responders for their support, pausing several times to collect himself before leaving the stage to another standing ovation.
For the rest of the ceremony, dozens of awards and citations were passed out to firefighters, police officers, dispatchers and even some civilians.
"It's really not about the awards," MacNamara said. "It's about the calls for service, and they all start the same way. It's a call for help, a call from someone in this community saying they need us."
First Selectman Michael Tetreau said the program was a special one, noting that unlike other youngsters, the children of police and firefighters can't accompany their parents to work. "A night like tonight is very special because we get to honor what they do every day," he said. "The people we're honoring tonight made a difference."
Fire Chief Richard Felner said the town is fortunate to have the Police and Fire departments it does. "Our job is to make sure tomorrow happens for you," he said. "The awards are well deserved. Even thought it's their job, they earned it."
John Pierce was on hand to receive a Civilian Public Safety Award for his part in helping to save the life of Fairfield University student Justin Hervey, who ran onto a Little League field engulfed in flames after his vehicle caught on fire at Tunxis Hill Park last month.
"You wake up and you don't think that's going to happen," Pierce said, as he recalled the fire rescue, an almost surreal scene. But what it boils down to, he said, is teamwork, much like the quality that he and fellow Fairfield National Little League coaches were trying to instill in their young players on the field that day.
The complete awards list follows:
- FIRE DEPARTMENT
- POLICE DEPARTMENT
Exceptional Service Medal: Sgt. Felix Esposito, Det. Bernard Kelley, Det. Peter Koval, Officers William Demotses, Walter Burke, Michael Clark, Benjamin Krygier, Jordan Nadeau, Lisa Burbige and William Koukoulas
Commendation for Honorable Service: Det. Peter Koval, Det. Alex Fucci, Det. Edward Nook, Sgt. Hector Irizarry, Officer Kevin Wells, Officer Jennifer Victoria, Officer James Baker and Marina Security Guard Frank Magyar.
Unit Citation: Det. Sgt. Tony Granata, Det. Peter Koval, Det. Alex Fucci, Det. Steven Rilling, Det. Fred Caruso, Lt. Michael Gagner, Sgt. Fred Hine, Sgt. Robert Kalamaas, Det. Peter Bravo, Det. Kerry Dalling, Det. Kevin McKeon, Officers Gary Wikman, Paul Medvegy, Benjamin Krygier, Urban Violence Task Force members Bridgeport Sgt. Jason Amato, Stratford Det. John Therina, Officer Michael Paris, Southington Lt. Michael Shanley, and Plainville Sgt. Gary Blake.
Police Chief's Letter of Recognition: Det. Jason Takacs, Officer Robert Chaisson, Officer James Bodnar, Officer Gary Wikman, Sgt. Seth Jenkins, Det. Bernard Kelley, Officer Jeffrey Wikman, Det. Kevin McKeon, Officer James Baker, Officer Jeremy Zdru, Officer Frank DeAngelis, Officer Frank DiMarco, Officer Evan Kaesmann, Officer Michael Mazzocchi, Det. Kerry Dalling, Det. Peter Bravo, Officer Scott Sudora, Officer Charles Ricco, Officer Mark Letsch, Sgt. Edward Greene, Det. Alex Fucci, Telecommunicator Martha Kuczo, Officer Matthew Riendeau, Sgt. Edward Kovac, Officer Edward Terifay, Det. Beth Irizarry, Officer Daniel Victoria, Det. Fred Caruso, Officer Anthony Vaspasiano, Officer Sean Fenton, Officer Michael Komm, Telecommunicators Jennifer DiJoseph, Susana de Moura and Russell Atkins.
Civilian Public Safety Award: Chris D'Ambrosio, Cingari Family, Larry Roberts, Joseph Palmieri, Hemlock Hardware, Home Depot, Jim Carolan, Vince Giacomazza, John Pierce, Peter Porrazzo, Brian Stanton and Millie Velasquez.