Home News Speeches Presentation of FBI Honorary Medals
  • John G. Raucci
  • Assistant Director, Human Resources Division
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • Honorary Medals Ceremony FBI Headquarters
  • Washington, D.C.
  • March 27, 2009

Good afternoon, I am John Raucci, Assistant Director of the Human Resources Division, and I will be your emcee for today’s ceremony. I would like to welcome everyone to this very special event.

It is my honor to begin the presentation of Honorary Medals.

FBI Star

The FBI Star is awarded for serious injury sustained in the direct line of duty from physical confrontation with criminal adversaries, an injury inflicted by weapons, gunshot wounds inflicted in the line of duty, or an injury so severe that it would require substantial emergency room sutures, hospitalization or comprehensive medical treatment for a sustained period of time.

***

We are proud to present the first medal of the day—the FBI Star—to Major Peter Norton of the British Army.

Major Norton is a bomb technician who was serving as the team leader for a Combined Explosive Exploitation Cell mission, with two FBI Special Agent Bomb Technicians.

On July 24, 2005, Major Norton, Special Agent Christopher Rigopoulos, and Special Agent Nicholas Boshears, among others, were called to a roadside bombing scene in which five American soldiers had been killed.

Upon arriving at the scene, Major Norton ordered his team to conduct searches around the immediate area. He had received information from an earlier briefing that several wires had been observed near the post-blast crater. He ordered his team to stay behind while he proceeded to the site to search for the wires in question and for any sign of a secondary device.

Shortly thereafter, Major Norton tripped a buried pressure switch and suffered severe injuries in the resulting blast. When his team members found him, he was conscious, but unaware of his serious injuries.

In the midst of his severe pain, his first words were to provide information about what he saw prior to the blast, and to warn his team of the pending dangers. When a U.S. Army Medic arrived on scene, he was visibly shaken by the Major’s injuries, and it was the Major himself who kept the medic calm.

He told those on hand to call his wife and to assure her that he would be fine. He ensured that his weapons, ammunition, and tactical equipment were in the proper hands before he was evacuated. And throughout the entire ordeal, his primary concern was not for his own safety, but for the safety of his teammates.

His military bearing on the battlefield after such a traumatic injury is incredible. Major Norton’s discipline saved the lives of his team.

Although Major Norton has already been honored by Queen Elizabeth with the George Cross, we are proud to present him with the FBI Star—an award no less significant in terms of our gratitude for his courage and his exemplary conduct.

***

The next award, for the FBI Star, is presented to Supervisory Special Agents Bruce Bennett, Earl Camp, and Tricia Gibbs, and Special Agent Raymond Pitesky, for their actions related to a bombing attack in Islamabad, Pakistan, in March of 2008.

We also want to welcome a special guest joining us today—Detective Superintendent Keith Pearce, of the Metropolitan Police Service in London, England, who was eating dinner with these four individuals that night, when the attack took place.

Within a few weeks of the bombing attack, Director Mueller approved awarding the FBI Star to Detective Superintendent Pearce, and that medal was presented to him in London. He joins us today not only to be recognized in person by those of us here in the FBI, but also to celebrate with his colleagues as they receive their medals.

On March 15, 2008, attackers threw an explosive device onto the back patio of a restaurant in Islamabad known to be frequented by foreign nationals. Agents Pitesky, Bennett, Gibbs, and Camp were eating dinner there with their colleague Detective Superintendent Pearce. Each was seriously and permanently injured as a result of that attack.

We are grateful for their dedication and their courage. And we are proud to award the FBI Star to these individuals.

  • Supervisory Special Agent Bruce Bennett
  • Supervisory Special Agent Earl D. Camp
  • Supervisory Special Agent Tricia A. Gibbs
  • Detective Superintendent Keith Pearce
  • Special Agent Raymond M. Pitesky

FBI Medal for Meritorious Achievement

The FBI Medal for Meritorious Achievement is awarded for extraordinary and exceptional meritorious service in a duty of extreme challenge and great responsibility, extraordinary and exceptional achievements in connection with criminal or national security cases, or a decisive, exemplary act that results in the protection or the direct saving of life in severe jeopardy in the line of duty.

***

Next, we present Supervisory Special Agent Harold Bickmore with the FBI Medal for Meritorious Achievement for his heroic and selfless efforts to save the life of a 16-year-old girl.

On May 10, 2007, Mr. Bickmore came upon an accident on a major four-lane highway in a suburb of Boston. Mr. Bickmore, though off-duty at the time, stopped and identified himself to the small crowd gathered around the accident.

He noticed a young woman lying on the pavement. She did not appear to be breathing, and was bleeding from both her head and her mouth. Given the extent of her injuries, Mr. Bickmore feared she might be dead.

He took immediate action. He called 911 and asked for a life support trauma unit. He asked a bystander to get a towel from his car. Then, while holding the towel on her head to stop the flow of blood, and applying traction to her neck in case of a spinal injury, he administered CPR, in spite of the risk of possible infection from blood-borne pathogens. He rendered assistance in spite of the panic of those around him. Roughly one minute later, the young woman opened her eyes and began to breathe on her own.

At the hospital, several doctors and medical personnel told Mr. Bickmore that his quick actions saved this young woman from permanent brain damage and excessive blood loss.

Due to his quick thinking, his heroic actions, and his disregard for his own personal health and safety, we are proud to present Special Agent Bickmore with the FBI Medal for Meritorious Achievement.

***

In 2006, Supervisory Special Agent John Dunn was on temporary duty assignment for the Counterterrorism Division in Iraq, working to disrupt and dismantle the al Qaeda Iraq network.

Given the sensitive work he was handling, we cannot divulge many details. But suffice it to say, Mr. Dunn placed himself in grave danger on numerous occasions while in Iraq. He examined the sites of several terrorist attacks, he collected highly valuable intelligence, and he interviewed numerous known and suspected terrorists.

All told, Mr. Dunn has participated in roughly 35 combat missions in extremely dangerous environments. And in each mission, Agent Dunn accomplished what was asked of him without hesitation or regard for his own personal safety. Time after time, he has exhibited superior investigative skills, strong tactical judgment, and an exceptional sense of duty, often in the face of enemy gunfire and enormous pressure.

For his bravery, his diligence, and his willingness to place himself in grave danger, we are proud to award Supervisory Special Agent Dunn with the FBI Medal for Meritorious Achievement.

***

Earlier this morning, we honored Supervisory Special Agent Tricia Gibbs and her colleagues with the FBI Star in connection with their conduct during the bombing of a restaurant in Pakistan in March of last year. We would like to present Ms. Gibbs with a second medal—the FBI Medal for Meritorious Achievement, for her particular conduct during that attack.

As we noted earlier, Supervisory Special Agents Bruce Bennett, Earl Camp, and Special Agent Raymond Pitesky were eating dinner with Ms. Gibbs and their colleague Detective Superintendent Keith Pearce, when a bomb was thrown onto the restaurant’s back patio.

In the midst of much confusion, fear, and mayhem, Ms. Gibbs helped her colleagues to safety outside of the building, in spite of the fact that she herself was seriously injured. She kept her cool in a time of great crisis, and in keeping with the storied tradition of the FBI, placed the safety of others before her own safety. Her courage under fire, quite literally, makes her deserving of the FBI Medal for Meritorious Achievement. We are proud to call her one of our own, and are proud to present her with this honor.

***

In January of 2008, Special Agents Sean Burke, Jeffrey Dowdy, Michael Dupler, Daniel Gaston, Jason Kruger, Haejun Park, and Supervisory Special Agent Jeffrey Wood were stationed in Kabul, Afghanistan, as part of an FBI initiative to investigate and prevent suicide bombing attacks.

On the evening of January 14, 2008, two armed gunmen attacked a hotel in Kabul. The attackers threw hand grenades over the first gate and shot and killed one security guard. The first attacker then made his way into the courtyard of the hotel and detonated his suicide vest, killing himself and several other innocent victims.

The second attacker entered the hotel lobby and began randomly shooting people with an assault rifle. After roughly 20 minutes, he left the hotel and made his way to the pool to hide his weapon and his suicide vest and to make his escape.

Agents Burke, Dowdy, Dupler, Gaston, Kruger, Park, and Wood responded to the scene within minutes of the attack, and took the lead in clearing the hotel, room by room. They evacuated 39 hotel guests, including 20 U.S. citizens. Unbeknownst to them, the second attacker was still in the hotel at the start of the evacuation.

After the hotel was cleared, they conducted an extensive investigation of the crime scene, to include collecting physical evidence, taking detailed photographs, and reviewing hotel surveillance footage.

The day after the attack, they interviewed the second attacker, who had been captured by local security forces. The interview led to the identification of several high-ranking Afghan National Police Officers who conspired in the planning and execution of the attack.

Each of these individuals risked their own safety to neutralize a dangerous situation, to minimize the injury and risk to others, and to find those responsible for the attack.

We are proud to present the FBI Medal of Meritorious Achievement to Special Agents Burke, Dowdy, Dupler, Gaston, Kruger, Park, and Wood.

  • Special Agent Sean J. Burke
  • Special Agent Jeffrey W. Dowdy
  • Special Agent Michael P. Dupler
  • Special Agent Daniel A. Gaston had a prior commitment and could not attend
  • Special Agent Jason P. Kruger
  • Special Agent Haejun Park
  • Supervisory Special Agent Jeffrey E. Wood, Jr.

FBI Shield of Bravery

The FBI Shield of Bravery is presented for brave and courageous acts occurring in the line of duty or within the scope of FBI employment which may extend to major assistance to a task force or undercover operation, grave situations, or crisis confrontations associated with the highest priority cases of the FBI.

***

We are proud to present the Shield of Bravery to Supervisory Special Agent Nicholas Boshears, in recognition of an exceptional act of bravery while on assignment in Iraq. A few moments ago, you heard the story of Major Peter Norton. Like Major Norton, Mr. Boshears was assigned to a team that provided immediate analysis of improvised explosive devices. It was Mr. Boshears who first reached Major Norton after the blast that injured him.

Without a moment’s hesitation, Mr. Boshears provided immediate first aid to stop his bleeding and prevent him from going into shock. He then moved Major Norton to safety to await a medical evacuation. As soon as Major Norton had been airlifted away, Mr. Boshears completed the mission with his team. It was only later that he learned his quick thinking and capable action saved Major Norton’s life.

Mr. Boshears displayed extraordinary calm, compassion, and bravery in the face of tremendous adversity. He put the safety of his friend above his own safety without giving it a second thought. We are grateful for his example of selfless service and we are honored to present him with the Shield of Bravery.

***

We are proud to present the Shield of Bravery to Special Agent Charles Davis, for his heroic actions while on assignment in Iraq in 2006. Unfortunately, many of the details of his actions are classified. However, we can tell you that Mr. Davis worked in support of the U.S. military to conduct sensitive searches, capture and interview insurgents, and recover weapons and other evidence.

He encountered enemy gunfire on a number of occasions—and that was just the start of what he faced every day of his mission. Most of us have never been to the front lines in a war zone. It is hard for us to imagine accepting the constant danger of bombs and firefights, or accept them as part of a day’s work.

Mr. Davis did just that, walking into danger day after day in support of the FBI’s mission. And despite facing enormous pressure and more than a few life-threatening situations, Mr. Davis consistently acted without regard to his own personal safety, and his actions saved lives.

Most of us will never fully know the scope of his heroic actions, but we are proud to recognize them, and we are honored to present Special Agent Davis with the Shield of Bravery.

***

We are proud to present the Shield of Bravery to Supervisory Special Agent Christopher Rigopoulos for his heroic actions while on assignment in Iraq.

Mr. Rigopoulos was assigned to the same team as Special Agent Boshears and Major Norton. Dealing with explosive devices was an everyday occurrence. But one day, he was part of a convoy dispatched to investigate a suicide attack. Within moments of leaving the gates, a bomb exploded 15 meters behind him, destroying the vehicle behind his.

He immediately turned his vehicle around to assist the soldier inside. He rushed toward the flames, using his body as a shield between the injured soldier and the smoldering vehicle. He pulled him to safety, performed first aid, and secured him in his own seat in his armored vehicle—sacrificing his own safe escape. He then raced back to the stricken crew and gave life-saving medical attention to another gravely injured officer. All the while, Mr. Rigopoulos used his body to shield his comrade from gunfire flying overhead.

About 15 minutes after the first explosion, another bomb exploded, but Mr. Rigopoulos refused to leave the wounded soldier until he was evacuated by helicopter. He then proceeded to complete the original mission, showing incredible calm and professionalism in the face of extreme danger.

We are thankful for his dedication, and we are proud to present Special Agent Rigopoulous with the Shield of Bravery.

***

We are proud to present the Shield of Bravery to Supervisory Special Agents Stephen J. Clark and William T. Francis, Jr., for their heroic actions while assigned to the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team in Iraq.

Again, most of the details of their actions are classified due to the highly sensitive nature of their missions. To put it broadly, Mr. Clark and Mr. Francis conducted raids on suspected target residences and encountered enemy gunfire as a matter of routine.

But such things are never routine. They involve tremendous pressure, the need to make life-and-death decisions in a split second, and the ability to push aside any thoughts of one’s own personal safety. Mr. Clark and Mr. Francis, like all FBI personnel who have served in Iraq, truly know what it means to be on the front lines of war. They all went there willingly. They fought bravely. And they saved lives.

We are inspired by their example. We are grateful for their service. And we are proud to present them with the Shield of Bravery.

  • Supervisory Special Agent Stephen J. Clark
  • Supervisory Special Agent William T. Francis, Jr.

***

We are proud to present the next three Shields of Bravery to Special Agent Ronald Eowan, Senior, Regional Security Officer Earl Miller, from the State Department, and former Special Agent Paul Myers.

By way of background, in 2002 in Indonesia, 10 schoolteachers and a 6-year-old child were ambushed by 12 terrorists while returning home from a picnic. Two U.S. citizens and one Indonesian citizen were killed, and the surviving eight Americans were seriously wounded.

Mr. Eowan, Mr. Miller, and Mr. Myers investigated this case for almost four years. They overcame countless obstacles that arose from operating on foreign soil—from an unstable political situation to a harsh physical environment. They operated without the most basic tools required for modern investigations, including communications systems, secure facilities, even weapons.

And yet in 2006, they designed and executed a highly complex ruse that led to the arrests of the 12 terrorists—at tremendous personal risk. Their tenacity and bravery made possible a significant disruption to a terrorist group that had plagued Indonesia for decades.

We are fortunate to have such dedicated men on our side. And we are honored to present these men with the Shield of Bravery.

  • Special Agent Ronald C. Eowan, Sr.
  • Regional Security Officer Earl R. Miller from the Department of State
  • Former Special Agent Paul R. Myers who could not be with us today.

***

We are proud to present the Shield of Bravery to a group of 14 individuals who were involved in a standoff and shootout with a dangerous felon who had threatened to walk up to the Capitol and shoot police. The team attempted to serve a search warrant on the subject, but as they entered his residence, the subject began shooting. The team adjusted their positions and strategy, but as the hours went by and the subject continued firing upon them, it became clear he would not communicate with them except by gunfire.

In the midst of this crisis, the team safely evacuated the residents of the adjacent apartments, including a family with two small children. Eventually, the team re-entered the apartment to arrest the subject, who continued to shoot at them until he was killed by return fire.

All of these individuals voluntarily risked their safety and their lives. Instead of turning away, many of them repeatedly stepped into the path of bullets. And those who were not under direct fire were directly supporting the operation, whether by developing tactical plans, conducting hostage negotiations, or shielding and covering the assault team. Each of these individuals displayed tremendous professionalism and bravery.

We are grateful for their willingness to step into harm’s way to protect all of us. And we are proud to present each of them with the Shield of Bravery.

  • Special Agent Steven J. Binney,
  • Special Agent David L. Bonney,
  • Special Agent G. Joseph Bradley, III,
  • Special Agent Jeffrey Cisar,
  • Captain Mark E. Gibbons of the Maryland State Police,
  • Special Agent Thomas E. Huegerich,
  • Special Agent Christopher Mayfield,
  • Special Agent Paul V. Miller,
  • Special Agent Kevin P. Murray—Kevin is deployed. Accepting on his behalf is his father, former Supervisory Special Agent Dennis P. Murray who was also a recipient of the Shield of Bravery.
  • Special Agent Joe Pientka III,
  • Supervisory Special Agent Michael E. Saltz,
  • Special Agent Jae B. Shim,
  • Special Agent Robert B. Tucker, and
  • Special Agent Kevin Vorndran

FBI Medal of Valor

The FBI Medal of Valor is presented in recognition of an exceptional act of heroism or voluntary risk of personal safety and life, and this act must have occurred in the direct line of duty or within the scope of FBI employment and in the face of criminal adversaries.

***

We are truly honored to present the first Medal of Valor to Special Agent Robert Merta. Mr. Merta, this medal is long overdue, but we assure you, your heroic actions have not been overlooked.

Back in 1989, Mr. Merta was assigned to investigate a dangerous fugitive who had been on the lam for years after a violent escape from prison. He and three other agents successfully located the subject, who drew a gun on them when they attempted to arrest him. The second Mr. Merta saw the subject reach for his gun, he tackled him in an attempt to disarm him. He was grazed by a bullet as the subject exchanged fire with the agents. He returned fire, and the subject later died from his wounds.

Mr. Merta did exactly what he had been trained to do. There was no time to stop and think. Mr. Merta immediately understood the danger the subject posed to his colleagues. He acted with tremendous courage, and his actions prevented his fellow agents from grave harm.

Mr. Merta, though much time has passed since that day, your actions are no less heroic. We are thankful for your sacrifice and your service. And we are proud to present you with the FBI’s highest honor, the Medal of Valor.

***

A few moments ago, I described the heroic actions of Special Agent Christopher Rigopoulos, who physically shielded soldiers who had been gravely injured when a bomb exploded in the midst of their convoy. While ammunition exploded overhead, he brought them to safety and literally saved their lives, at great risk to his own life. Mr. Rigopoulos also participated in the rescue of Major Peter Norton.

To him, such incidents were all in a day’s work. To us, they are extraordinary acts of valor. And as such, we would like to recognize Mr. Rigopoulos once again, this time presenting him with the Medal of Valor.

***

Finally, we would also like to recognize Supervisory Special Agents Stephen Clark and William Francis, Jr., a second time. Unfortunately, due to the sensitive nature of their missions while serving in Iraq, we still can’t disclose many details of their actions.

Most people will never know the lengths to which these men were willing to go in service to the FBI and to the American people. Every day was a different battle against determined adversaries. Every day brought with it the risk they would not live to see another one.

Yet day after day, they put aside their own safety and put their lives on the line. Time after time, they went to some of the most dangerous places imaginable and saw some of the darkest things. They did so with professionalism, commitment, grit, and above all, valor.

We are honored to have them as our colleagues. And we are proud to recognize each of them again, with the Medal of Valor.

  • Supervisory Special Agent Stephen J. Clark
  • Supervisory Special Agent William T. Francis, Jr.

FBI Memorial Star

As we close this year’s ceremony, I would like to recognize two fallen agents that received the FBI Memorial Star; Special Agent Samuel S. Hicks, killed in the line of duty on November 19, 2008 and Special Agent Paul M. Sorce who died as a result of an auto accident in the line of duty on March 9, 2009.

***

That concludes our ceremony for today. Please join us once again in the Webster Room. Thank you for coming, we hope you enjoyed the day.

 
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