AUSTIN, Texas – Governor Rick Perry honored peace officers, firefighters, emergency medical first responders and citizens by presenting them with the Star of Texas award Thursday, Sept. 12, at Shoreline Church in Austin.
Those who received awards were recognized for sustaining a serious injury, were killed in the line of duty or assisted a first responder.
Among the many being honored was Waxahachie Police Officer Joshua Williams. Williams was killed in the line of duty while responding to a call on July 28. He was responding to a disturbance at a fast food restaurant in the 600 block of Highway 77. Williams was one of 17 peace officers recognized for being killed in the line of duty during Thursday’s ceremony.
There were also five firefighters from West who were recognized for their bravery and sacrifice during Thursday’s event. Those five men were killed when a fertilizer plant in the city of West exploded on April 17. They were among 19 people honored at the event.
Perry addressed the relatives, friends and coworkers of those who gave their lives, as well as the eight firefighters who had been seriously injured in the line of duty and the 24 peace officers who had been seriously injured in the line of duty.
“Since the tragic day of 9/11, we have been in a time of rebuilding,” Perry said. “The wreckage has been cleared away, the Pentagon has been rebuilt, and there’s a new tower rising above the skyline of New York where the Twin Towers once stood. It has been a time of healing. It has been a time of rebuilding. It has been a time of rebirth.”
Perry said the events of that day definitely changed our nation.
“We better understand the dangers of global threats,” he said. “We better understand the need to be prepared for any eventuality. We better understand the extraordinary sacrifices made every day by our nation’s first responders.
“The echoes of the footsteps taken by New York Firefighters and by those police officers up those stairwells in the World Trade Center continue to reverberate today,” he said. “They can be heard in the desperation of every emergency call, in the voice on the other side of the door during an attempt to serve a warrant, behind the wheel of a routine traffic stop that may not turn out to be routine at all.”
He said Texas First Responders know there is no such thing as routine. They demonstrate the kind of bravery witnessed on 9/11 each and every day the go to work.
“That certainly was the case in West the day that fertilizer business was impacted by fire and explosion,” Perry said. “Not only did the community’s firefighters respond, but so did the paramedics. Those trainees that were there and the Dallas chief who lived near by.”
He said it was also witnessed when Brazos County Constable Brian Bachmann arrived to serve an eviction notice in College Station, only to find himself under fire from the residents inside.
“Constable Bachmann was killed and three other peace officers were wounded in the shootout before the gunman could be brought down” Perry stated.
Perry also said that was the case near Houston in May when a five alarm fire at motel claimed the lives of four fighters, including probationary firefighter Anne Sullivan.
“She was working only her second fire,” he said.
“Anyone in this room knows how this calling, this noble service carries with it a great element of danger,” he said. “They understand that placing oneself in harms way sometimes carry a huge cost. These individuals we lost this past year lived with the understanding, but it was part of living lives of consequence. They were part of a higher calling. Like the honorees present here today, they made Texas a safer, stronger and better place to live.”
He spoke directly to those in the room who had been injured while in pursuit of their duties. Perry said they have the gratitude and the respect of the entire state.
“To those who have lost loved ones, I can only imagine the pain you continue to feel, but I hope you understand that your fallen loved ones helped spare countless others from the pain you’ve experienced,” he said. “Know they lived in the most noble fashion possible. They placed the lives of others above their own safety.”
Perry said the Texans being honored on Thursday were the best the state has to offer. He said they are people that made honor and courage a way of life.
“They are the people who exemplified ‘love thy neighbor,’” he said. “They are the people we can always count on and we take great pride in honoring them today.”
He added that he hoped that God would speed the healing of their hearts and the God would continue to bless the state of Texas through those taking part in the ceremony.
Executive Director of the Criminal Justice Division Christopher Burnett also showed his appreciation for the honorees by quoting a writer that said, “There is no such thing as love, only proof of love. There is no such thing as courage, only proof of courage. There is no such thing as honor, only proof of honor.
There’s no such thing as sacrifice, only proof of sacrifice.
“The brave men and women you will see or hear about today are that proof,” Burnett said. “They prove there is courage by giving up their safety to protect others. They prove there is honor by defending those who cannot defend themselves. Some prove there is sacrifice by giving their lives so that others might live.”
About the Star of Texas Awards
This year marks the 10th anniversary of the legislation creating the Star of Texas Award, which was established to honor and commemorate the bravery and selflessness of Texas’ first responders. In 2007, the award was expanded to include federal law enforcement officers or special agents seriously injured or killed while performing duties that assisted a state or local law enforcement agency in Texas. In 2013, Senate Bill 877 established the Citizens’ Star of Texas Award to recognize citizens who were seriously injured or killed while assisting first responders. Three advisory committees are appointed by the governor to review award nominations each year to ensure they meet statutory criteria.
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