The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security hosted the annual First Responder Awards ceremony Wednesday. The event held in Conservation Hall at the Tennessee Residence honors those who have dedicated their lives for the safety and security of Tennesseans.
Governor Bill Lee, First Lady Maria Lee, Commissioner Jeff Long and State Senator Becky Massey (R-Knoxville) joined honorees, their family members, and agency representatives to recognize first responders as well as the recipients of the “Three Stars of Tennessee Award.”
Honorees are nominated by his or her peers and represent the 11 homeland security districts, law enforcement agencies, and emergency responders throughout Tennessee, as well as state agencies.
“This annual event is very important to us,” Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Jeff Long said. “We remain indebted to the men and women first responders who work every day to keep the people of Tennessee safe. Our hearts go out to the families who have had loved ones make the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty. We are proud to honor them with these awards. Important events take place at the Governor’s Residence, and we appreciate Governor Lee allowing our department to continue to host this special ceremony.”
This year, 24 first responders were recognized with First Responder Awards and five individuals were honored with the “Three Stars of Tennessee Award.”
“Three Stars of Tennessee Award” honorees are those who gave their lives in the line of duty. “These courageous individuals gave their lives to keep their communities safe,” Commissioner Long said.
The First Responder Awards ceremony has been a long standing tradition in memory of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. State Senator Becky Massey spearheaded legislation to recognize law enforcement, firefighters and medical first responders who were either killed or suffered a career ending injury in the line of duty. The law (TCA 4-1-501) to allow for the “Three Stars of Tennessee Award” passed during the 2014 legislative session. Governor & First Lady Lee, Senator Massey along with Commissioner Long made the presentations to “Three Stars of Tennessee Award” honorees and the first responder award recipients.
Here are the Three Stars of Tennessee Award Honorees:
Sergeant Steve Hinkle
Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office
Zachary “Zach” Pruitt
Paramedic, Jackson Medical Center EMS
Officer Nicholas Scott Galinger
Chattanooga Police Department
District Fire Chief Jason Byrd
Fayette County Fire Department
Officer John R. Anderson
Metropolitan Nashville Police Department
First Responder Recipients
Dispatcher Jessica Donihe, Bristol Police Department
Investigator Wendy Zolkowski, Oak Ridge Police Department
Officer Ethan Grantham, Knoxville Police Department
Captain Hank Smith, Bradley County Fire and Rescue
Firefighter Zakk Gilreath, Bradley County Fire and Rescue
Lieutenant Aaron Hicks, Bradley County Fire and Rescue
Lieutenant C.J. Davis, Bradley County Fire and Rescue
Dispatch Supervisor Becky Waller, Bradley County Fire and Rescue
Timothy L. Booher, Paramedic and Emergency Management Coordinator, Pickett County EMS
Chief Ronnie Hummel, Firefighter and First Responder, East Clay County Fire and Rescue
Captain Michael Wilkerson (retired), Nashville Fire Department
Officer Brandan Hendricks and Officer Shavell Lucas, Clarksville Police Department
Sergeant Shanna Grice, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office
Director Johnny Cheatwood, Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office
Director Larry Glass, Lawrence County Emergency Medical Service
Officer Brandon Wheeler, Dyersburg Police Department
Deputy Whitney Cobb, Madison County Sheriff’s Office
Deputy Brandon Massey, Madison County Sheriff’s Office
Shelby County Fire Department and Millington Fire Department
Colonel Keith Watson, Memphis Police Department
Special Agent Andrew Graves, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation
Trooper Jon Judge, Tennessee Highway Patrol
Here are the 2019 “Three Stars of Tennessee Award” Bios:
Sergeant Steve Hinkle, Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office (posthumous)
On Feb. 23, 2019 Sergeant Steve Hinkle responded to a call for a welfare check at 3606 Highway 11 West. As officers approached the residence, they were met with gunfire from the occupant. Officers took cover and attempted to establish communication with the individual inside, but they were met with gunfire a second time. Sgt. Hinkle was struck during the exchange and quickly transported to Bristol Regional Medical Center for treatment of his injuries. Three days later Sgt. Hinkle succumbed to those injuries. Sgt. Hinkle served with the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office for 27 years.
End of Watch: Feb. 26, 2019
Zachary “Zach” Pruitt, Paramedic, Jackson Medical Center EMS (posthumous)
On the evening of Friday, Nov. 30, 2018 Paramedic Zach Pruitt was caring for and transporting a patient from a hospital in Jackson, Tn. to another facility in Nashville, TN. During the transport, the ambulance was involved in a motor vehicle accident in which the patient as well as Mr. Pruitt lost their lives. Mr. Pruitt had recently graduated paramedic school and it was clear to those he worked with that he loved what he did to help others every day.
End of Watch: Nov. 30, 2018
Officer Nicholas Scott Galinger. Chattanooga Police Department (posthumous)
Nicholas Scott Galinger, 38, moved to Chattanooga in August of 2018 to pursue his dream of becoming a police officer. He graduated from the Chattanooga Police Department Academy in January 2019. On Feb. 23, 2019, Officer Galinger and his field training partner were dispatched to the 2900 block of Hamill Road, in the Hixson Area of Chattanooga, to check a manhole cover that had water overflowing from it due to heavy rain. Officer Galinger was out of his patrol unit checking the manhole when he was struck by a passenger vehicle. His partner administered immediate care while summoning addition help. Officer Galinger was transported to the Erlanger Trauma Center in critical condition where he died a short time later.
End of Watch: Feb. 24, 2019
District Fire Chief Jason Byrd, Fayette County Fire Department (posthumous)
On Feb. 18, 2019, District Chief (Station 14) Jason Byrd and his station responded to a fire at a two-story single family home. Chief Byrd was assisting in deploying a ladder so firefighters could gain access to the roof of the home. While holding the ladder, he suffered an apparent heart attack. Within 15 seconds of the medical emergency, responders administered advanced life support measures to Chief Byrd and then transported him to a local hospital where he was pronounced deceased. Chief Byrd, 42, had been with the Hickory Withe Fire Department since 1997, and he transitioned into Fayette County in 2005. He served as the chief of District 14 in Fayette County for 12 years.
End of Watch: Feb. 18, 2019
Officer John R. Anderson, Metro Nashville Police Department (posthumous)
On July 4, 2019, Central Precinct Officer John Anderson lost his life when his marked police car was violently struck on the driver’s side by a 2016 Ford Fusion being driven by a 17-year-old without a license. The 17-year-old was treated, released and arrested for vehicular homicide. Minutes before the collision, another officer had attempted to stop the driver of the Fusion, but she accelerated and he did not pursue. Officer Anderson spent his entire four year career at the MNPD Central Precinct. He was a proud member of the department’s Drill & Ceremony Team, and he was also a bagpiper. Officer Anderson, a 2013 graduate of Western Kentucky University, was the father of an 18-month-old son, and he was a member of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve.
End of Watch: July 4, 2019
The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security’s (www.TN.Gov/safety) mission is to serve, secure, and protect the people of Tennessee.