Washington tipped its hat to a pair of local heroes. On Wednesday, two Pennsylvania state police troopers out of Monroe County were honored at our nation's capital. They helped save the life of a nine-year-old boy, but only one survived the ordeal.
The Public Safety Medal of Valor recognizes those who have demonstrated exceptional courage regardless of personal safety. It's the nation's highest award for valor by a public safety officer.
Those qualities were exactly what Trooper Robert Lombardo and fallen Trooper Joshua Miller exuded on June 7, 2009. Troopers Miller and Lombardo were at the end of a 40-mile police chase that began when an armed man kidnapped his 9-year-old son in Nazareth, Northampton County.
"Recognizing that this child was in immediate danger, he and Trooper Lombardo approached the driver side of the car, using their batons to shatter the window," explained Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary Lou Leary during the ceremony.
The man started shooting, hitting both officers.
"Despite Officer Lombardo's injuries, which paralyzed his left arm, he did not seek cover, he continued to engage the assailant, who died at the scene," said Leary.
The nine-year-old boy was saved. Trooper Miller died carrying out his sworn duty to protect.
"We honor both Trooper Miller and Trooper Lombardo," read Leary. "We pay debt of great honor to Trooper Miller for making the ultimate sacrifice."
Lombardo was first to receive the prestigious recognition. Miller's wife Angela accepted the medal on his behalf, sharing a hug and a special moment with Vice President Joe Biden. Miller was one of four honored posthumously at the ceremony.
"What is it that pushes a man like Trooper Joshua Miller that the safety of a kidnapped nine-year-old child is more important than his own physical safety," mused Biden. "To engage the kidnapper even after he'd been wounded instead of trying to find cover or find treatment for his wounds, what is it?"
He says duty, honor and courage are the common denominators with everyone selected to receive the award.
"From the bottom of my heart, thank you. On behalf of the president, thank you, thank you, thank you."
The Medal of Valor has been awarded 78 times since its creation in 2001.