By Coastal Breeze News Staff
Marco Island recently celebrated their top first responders, the Bravest and the Finest. First was a luncheon at the Island Country Club where Division Chief Don Jones was bestowed with the honor of Firefighter of the Year. Chief Murphy introduced the keynote speaker, Bryan Koon, Director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management. Bryan discussed the challenges of meeting expectations while budgets are reduced. “Our job is to be as ready as possible, mitigating against potential impacts and to aid recovering from those impacts.” Bryan indicated he had visited every Emergency Operation Center in the state and about half of those around the country. “Collier County has the best emergency management capabilities in the world. It is the best, it is fantastic! It has a well-earned reputation.”
New Firefighter Paramedic Matt Lund was pinned by his wife Chelsea, while Firefighter Paramedic Brad Underwood was pinned by Division Chief Don Jones. The pinning of the badge was described by Deputy Chief Chris Byrne as a tradition for anyone entering the department during the past year. “The significance of the Maltese Cross came about hundreds of years ago in Malta when fire bombs were used as weapons. The warriors who fought those fires and helped those soldiers were awarded the Maltese Cross. They were the first firefighters. Today it is a symbol of protection, and a badge of honor.” Chief Murphy described a new award, given by the Foundation, to recognize a crew at a scene for their actions or their efforts. He detailed a fire on the 9th floor of a 22-story condominium, filling all floors, including the lobby with solid black smoke. Visibility was nil. Crews climbed each flight of stairs, clearing each floor. When they came to the 9th floor, they came upon an elderly couple. They removed their air supply, placed the packs on the couple and carried them down.
“They will tell you it is their job,” said the Chief. He then presented Tom Bogan, Chris Crossan, Sergio DeLeon and Brad Underwood with Unit Citation Awards. Both Tom and Chris thanked the foundation and requested a hand for Chief Murphy, Deputy Chief Chris Byrne and Division Chief Don Jones. “All of our guys are willing to risk a life for a life, but it is easier knowing these three are behind us.”
The highest honor of the day, Firefighter of the Year, went to Division Chief Don Jones, previous winner of the State of Florida Paramedic of the Year award. Chief Murphy cited his many years of community service, taking the lead on duty and off duty, as well as his role in assuring CPR training for the entire community, as reasons why Chief Jones was chosen. Chief Jones accepted the award, thanking the Foundation and the inspiring leadership of Chief Murphy and Chris Byrnes for surrounding him with the most talented, progressive firefighter paramedics who “make me look good every day.” Most importantly, he thanked his lovely wife Elaine saying, “God blessed me the day I met her.”
The following day, at Hideaway Beach, Joe Granda, President of the Police Foundation, started the proceedings by announcing the Officer of the Year for 2012, Officer Al Schettino. Joe described the vast qualifications of the recipient, “He has been an investigator, a marine officer, a patrol officer, he was Deputy Police Chief at the agency he was at before his former position and, today, he touches the lives of about 1,000 children on the island and is our school liaison. Al embodies the values of our officers on Marco Island.”
Al accepted the award, “I want to begin by thanking the Marco Island Police Foundation, as a Police Department we are blessed to have individuals as dedicated as you, working continuously to support our police department. You’re always there to help us. I’d like to thank the hard working dedicated members of the Police Department, volunteers and administrators. My wife, Carol and daughter Alexandra, they are always there to love and support me in whatever I do. A quote I’d like to share: to the world, you’re one person; to one person, you’re the world.”
The Police Foundation presented the new President’s Award to Chief Mike Murphy. “This award recognizes an outstanding citizen who shows tremendous leadership skills and has the respect of his peers,” Joe noted. “I am truly humbled by this,” said the Chief, “We are a team between the police and the fire department. The people that are out there every day, that work in your service, police, fire, they make us look good.”
The featured speaker was Jose Carillo. Chief Don Hunter said he had numerous distinctions, not only in the Police Department, but military as well. Jose said “Deputies in the county today are constantly reviewing policies and procedures for ‘active shooting’ scenarios. We take an active role on tactics, firearms, site assessment, building structures.” A video was played describing what to do in an active shooting situation. Three things to remember: Run- if you can escape, do. Hide- if possible, secure your hiding place, turn off ringers on cell phones. As a last resort, fight, and act with aggression. It was a serious discussion for a serious topic.
After the presentation, it was announced, Ed Stenzel, after 42 years of service to Law Enforcement, has retired. Chief Hunter presented Ed with a plaque in appreciation of his service. Ed said he will continue to be committed to helping out the department any way he can.
In recognition for their service and support of the Police Foundation, Marco Brewery owners, Frank and Lynette Lacava were presented with a plaque. Five members of the Foundation were recognized for their service Kevin Donlan, Sal Soldano, Mike McNaboe, Julie Dewars and Keith Dameron. The last appreciation award went to Bill Morris, past president of the Police Foundation.
The officers and directors were then sworn into office for 2013.