On May 14 at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C., the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary's Award for Valor ceremony was held in honor of individuals from DHS components who performed heroic feats.
Three U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) employees were among ten individuals who received this prestigious award. The DHS Award for Valor is the highest departmental recognition for extraordinary acts of valor by an employee, occurring while on or off duty, and it's only given in extraordinary circumstances. It's presented to select individuals who performed courageously in a dangerous or life-threatening situation to protect another's life or to save significant assets or infrastructure from harm.
Enforcement and Removal Operations Boston Field Office Deputy Director Christopher Cronen was one of the recipients. On his return from a weekend skiing trip on March 9, 2014, Cronen responded to a roll-over accident that had occurred at a toll booth in New Hampshire. With the assistance of Air Force personnel who had also stopped to help, Cronen pulled back the sunroof and safely removed from the burning car the driver, who was buckled in, unconscious, and bleeding, as well as two young boys. Cronen said as he struggled to get the people trapped inside the vehicle out, he heard bystanders calling "Hurry up. The car's on fire." Cronen ordered those nearby to go get fire extinguishers. Cronen was certain that the driver was dead. But once he got him out of the car and he was on the ground, the man showed signs of life. "Oh my gosh, this guy is breathing," Cronen said. Later than evening, Cronen said he experienced what's called an "adrenaline dump." He drove himself to the emergency room and had x-rays taken and glass taken out of his hand. Days later Cronen found out that all eight people in the vehicle survived.
Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent William Bronsteen was another recipient. On December 11, 2013, Bronsteen witnessed a motor vehicle accident resulting in multiple injuries. He immediately blocked the intersection with his own vehicle to prevent further accidents. When he noticed smoke coming from one of the cars, he removed the driver and dragged him approximately 30 feet to safety. A victim in the second car had sustained extensive injuries. Special Agent Bronsteen retrieved his medical bags and began administering first aid until additional medical personnel arrived. Although Bronsteen's life was in danger, as the vehicle could have caught fire and blown up at any time, Bronsteen said that "that didn't enter my mind until later that day." He attributes his quick and decisive action to "my career as a federal special agent, especially the HSI Certified First Responder training I took in New York." Bronsteen added, "I feel lucky to have been in a position to help, and today was a tremendous honor."
HSI Special Agent Matthew Malmquist received the Valor Award for his action at the Bush International Airport. On the afternoon of May 2, 2013, a Beaumont, Texas, man entered the airport and fired two rounds of ammunition from a handgun into the terminal. Malmquist was sitting nearby in the HSI Airport Group Office and quickly exited to respond to the shooting. A man in a wheelchair was positioned just 20 yards from the shooter, preventing Malmquist from shooting immediately. Malmquist repositioned himself to be more visible to the shooter, firing a shot at the same time the shooter took his own life. Malquist could not attend the DHS Valor Award ceremony as he was in Texas receiving a Governor's Award for his heroism.
DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, who presented the awards, was joined by DHS Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and DHS component leaders, including ICE Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Thomas Winkowski.
Secretary Johnson spoke at the event saying, "Today we highlight the character and integrity of our people within DHS, exemplified by ten individuals across the Department who have responded selflessly, concerned not for themselves, but with doing whatever they could to help others."
"Many have told us that the specialized training they received from the Department not only equipped them to do their job safely, but that it also played a role in the unfolding events which led to being honored here today. These actions, which saved lives, exemplify the spirit and mission of the Department of Homeland Security and underscore the commitment the Department's employees make every day."
Acts of valor that were also awarded included a checked baggage supervisor from the Transportation Security Administration who stopped a train to save a woman who had fallen on the tracks, an air interdiction agent from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) who jumped out of a helicopter to rescue a girl who was drowning in the lake below and an assistant attaché from CBP who safeguarded and secured Consulate personnel in Afghanistan after it was attacked by Taliban insurgents.