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March 07. 2013 8:59PM

Heroes honored for 'acts of courage'

HOOKSETT - The American Red Cross honored eight New Hampshire residents at its annual Heroes Breakfast for having "made a difference in our lives by performing acts of courage, or selflessly giving their time and efforts in order to benefit others."

Gov. Maggie Hassan spoke at Thurday's event, saying that the stories presented made her "so proud to be governor of the Granite State."

"We can't prevent emergencies from happening. They will always be part of our natural environment. They will always be part of the human experience, but can we determine how we will come together to respond to those events, and how we are going to make sure that no matter what happens in our community, we are there for each other."

Part of this work, Hassan continued, required that people remind one another that "when we work and plan to help each other, when we acknowledge that we need each other, we all grow a little stronger, and that is what the essence of the Granite State is about, and that is what the essence of the Red Cross is about."

Greenland Police Chief Mike Maloney, who suffered a fatal gunshot wound in May 2012 while dragging wounded officers to safety during a gunfight, was honored for paying "the ultimate price in order to protect his colleagues and the public." The incident occurred a week before he was scheduled retire.

"People often ask why was he there when he was so close to retirement," said Greenland Police Chief Tara Laurent, who worked as a sergeant under Maloney, in a video shown at the event in his honor. "He would have never, ever stayed at home knowing that his guys were out at that call."

In a statement shown at the end of the video, Maloney's wife, Meg, wrote that the family was "grateful for this honor."

Central High School students Gino Otero and Jaquel Holmes were credited with saving the lives of residents in a burning apartment complex. Seeing the fire while on their way home from football practice and with no rescue personnel on the scene, the two ran into the burning building, knocking on doors and yelling to alert residents of the fire. Inside, they also found man in a wheelchair and carried him to safety.

The two have insisted, however, that they only did what anyone would have done.

"I'm not a really a hero. I'm just a person who did what I had to do. It just happened, so I wouldn't call myself a hero," said Holmes.

Also honored was Jon Worrall, a retired sergeant first class in the Army, who converted his retirement camp and personal sanctuary in Pittsburg into a free retreat for wounded veterans seeking camaraderie and solitude.

In a video shown at the event, Worrall recalled an incident he felt best exemplified the work at his retreat, called Wounded Warriors at 45 North.

"I was fishing with a young man that was wounded similar to myself, in a lot of pain. We were in the middle of the stream ... and he looked over at me and said 'Chief, I'm not wounded today. I'm OK.' . If I do nothing else, I helped him, and that's the whole thing. He wasn't wounded that day. He didn't have to deal with anything. He could just go fishing. It's not about catching fish."

Molly Mendola and Andrew Meyers, Milford High School seniors and Red Cross-certified lifeguards, were honored for saving two swimmers caught in a riptide from drowning at Hampton Beach in May 2012. They were credited with running into the deadly tide and pulling the struggling swimmers to safety.

"I hope my son and daughter grow up to be young adults like the two of you, and I will kill them if they ever run into a riptide," said Carol Valianti of Unitil, who presented the award to the two.

Educare Daycare and Learning Center employee Patty Driscoll was honored for saving a 5-month-old who had stopped breathing. Certified in CPR, Driscoll immediately began giving the baby "rescue breaths" while medical teams were on their way.

John Washburn was credited with "saving many lives" through his more than 300 monthly donations of blood, blood plasma and platelets he has given and his efforts to recruit other donors.

Also in attendance were state Sen. Lou D'Allesandro, and representatives for U.S. Sens. Kelly Ayotte and Jeanne Shaheen and U.S. Reps. Ann McLane Kuster and Carol Shea-Porter.

Unitil was the event's title sponsor, with BAE Systems, Exeter Hospital, Liberty Mutual Group and Portsmouth Regional Hospital sponsoring hero awards.


bclogston@newstote.com


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