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Spirit of Courage awards local heroes

By Meghan Packer, Reporter, MPacker@wfmz.com
Published On: Oct 08 2013 09:07:02 PM CDT
Updated On: Oct 09 2013 07:21:01 AM CDT

It takes special people to put themselves in harm's way to save another person.

BETHLEHEM, Pa. -

It takes special people to put themselves in harm's way to save another person.

Whether it's a first responder who puts his or her life on the line just by going to work, or an average citizen who steps up in an extraordinary situation, there are heroes all around us.

Tuesday night, the Valley Preferred Spirit of Courage Award Celebration honored first responders and every day citizens who have shown commitment to burn education or shown acts of heroism by saving people from burn injuries or death.

"There are 125 guys in the Allentown Fire Department. I believe all 124 other would have done the same thing in my situation," said Lt. Jeremy Warmkessel with the Allentown Fire Department.

He was awarded for helping to save a boy from a fire in Allentown in October 2012. He took off his own mask and put it on the boy's face

"There was a little boy who was alone on the second floor and circumstances just led to where I had to go up there by myself and get him. We were trapped about the fire and we were alone by ourselves for a little while by ourselves," Warmkessel recalled. "I took my mask off and put it on him for as long as I could take."

The boy he saved, three-year-old Tristan McCants, was at Tuesday's ceremony.

"I'm grateful, grateful from the bottom of my heart because without him my son would not be here," said Tristan's mom, Sharia Brown. "He's more than a hero, more than a hero."

The Burn Prevention Network, Valley Preferred and Lehigh Valley Health Network put on the event. It's a chance to put humble heroes, both first responders and everyday citizens, in the spotlight.

"Guys who do it for a living, we're trained, we have protection, we have equipment. Civilians who did what they did, it's pretty amazing to know they did it just because of the human spirit," said Warmkessel.

When Brown asked her three year-old son if he wanted to thank Lt. Warmkessel, Tristan said, "thank you, thank you, thank you."

Others who were recognized at Tuesday night's awards celebration included;

The Phoenix Award: Kraig and Dana Hahn of Pen Argyl, Northampton County;

Valley Preferred Spirit of Courage Award: Nick Andriola, Lester Wolcott and Ken Werkheiser,  Jackson Twp.; Jeremy Warmkessel, Allentown; Dustin Grow and Michael Matchette, Allentown; Brian Quier, Bethlehem; Michael Zeshonski, Nicholas Bonczkiewicz and Paul Fortuner, Greenfield Twp., Lackawanna Co.; James Markiewicz and Paul Brunner, Mahanoy City, Monroe Co.; Gordon Potratz and William Lather, Hawley, Pa.

Partners in Prevention Award: Gregory Long, Allentown and Frank Zangari, Girardville, Schuylkill Co.;



Nomination forms for the 2014 Valley Preferred Spirit of Courage awards are due by June 6, 2014. If you would like a nomination packet or to learn more information, call 610-969-3930.