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Gov. Justice West Virginia first responders honored at Medal of Valor awards

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Gov. Jim Justice and officials from the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security (WV DHS) honored seven West Virginia first responders today with the inaugural Medal of Valor awards.

“There is no other way to put it; these recipients are heroes,” Gov. Justice said. “It is an extreme honor to recognize these individuals who gave their all to serve and protect our community. Today, we gather to celebrate these fearless men and women, acknowledge them, and honor their selflessness. I couldn’t be more proud.”
The West Virginia First Responder Honor Board was created within the WV DHS to recognize and honor first responders who have “distinguished themselves conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of their lives above and beyond the call of duty in the performance of their duties to be awarded the Medal of Valor.”

“We are honored to recognize these truly, selfless heroes,” Secretary of Homeland Security Jeff Sandy said. “Their dedication to service, putting their communities before self and how they exemplified courage and served those they are honored to protect is truly amazing.”

The inaugural honorees are as follows:

Patrolman Cassie Marie Johnson – Charleston Police Department
Officer Johnson, a  23-month veteran of the Charleston Police Department, was tragically killed in the line of duty when responding to a parking complaint. Officer Johnson’s tragic loss was the catalyst for Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Herschel “Woody” Williams to petition the West Virginia Legislature to create and codify the West Virginia First Responders Honor Board in order to show reverence and respect to the West Virginia heroes who have performed valiantly, and above and beyond the call of duty in the performance of their sworn duties.

Corporal Marshall Lee Bailey – West Virginia State Police
Trooper Eric Michael Workman – West Virginia State Police

Deputy John Westfall – Roane County Deputy Sheriff 
Corporal Bailey, Trooper Workman and Deputy Westfall responded to a reported stolen vehicle scene where they were victims of gunshots from an offender. The offender fatally shot Corporal Bailey, mortally wounded Trooper Workman and injured Deputy Westfall. These individuals are being honored for their sacrifice and intrepidity at the risk of their lives above and beyond the call of duty. 
Sergeant Thomas E. Baker III – Nicholas County Sheriff’s Department
Sergeant Thomas E. Baker and Corporal J. Ellison responded to a domestic violence complaint that resulted in the offenders opening fire on the responding officers. During the exchange of gunfire, Sergeant Baker, a 19-year law enforcement veteran, was fatally shot. He is being honored today for his valor and sacrifice. 

Firefighter John Dean Forbush  – Gassaway Volunteer Fire Department
John Forbush, a 4-year Gassaway Volunteer Fire Department veteran, responded to a report that a vehicle had driven into the Elk River. Firefighter Forbush realized there were occupants trapped inside the vehicle and called for assistance before jumping into the river and swimming to the vehicle. Firefighter Forbush is being honored today for his sacrifice and selflessness as he attempted to rescue those in peril. 

Firefighter James W. Spencer – Charleston Fire Department
Firefighter James W. Spencer responded to a residential fire. Upon arrival, citizens advised the responding firefighters that there were two individuals trapped on the second floor of the structure. Firefighter Spencer used a ground ladder to enter the house’s second floor, and he navigated through heavy fire and thick, billowing smoke conditions to locate and rescue the two people trapped on the structure’s second floor.  Firefighter Spencer is being honored today as he acted without regard for his personal risk, and his selfless actions resulted in his saving the lives of two West Virginia citizens.

Those wishing to nominate a recipient should contact their local legislator or the Governor’s Office.