WASHINGTON — Two sheriff's deputies in Virginia who died while trying to save fellow officers from a sniper were among those awarded the Medal of Valor on Wednesday.
Vice President Joe Biden awarded the honor to a total of 18 police officers, firefighters and public safety officers Wednesday.
Framed photos of Buchanan County Deputy Sheriff's Eric Rasnake, Shane Charles, Neil Justus and William Stiltner, from left, are displayed on a table at a candlelight vigil Monday, March 14, 2011 outside the county courthouse in Grundy, Va. (AP Image)
The posthumous award for Cameron Justus and William Stiltner came after they were shot and killed after responding to assist other deputies who had been fired at by a sniper at the scene of a larceny in progress call in March 2011.
Another officer honored was Sheriff Krista McDonald of Washington state, who rescued two officers shot by an armed man they had spotted with a missing 13-year-old girl. McDonald shot the hostage-taker in the leg, but he killed the young girl and then himself.
"I have a theory that there's a fine line between bravery and stupidity," McDonald said after receiving the medal. "We put ourselves out there never knowing who's going to want to do us harm, or if it's the day that we might not come home."
The Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor, authorized by the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor Act of 2001, is the highest national award for valor by a public safety officer.
The medal is awarded to public safety officers who have exhibited exceptional courage, regardless of personal safety, in the attempt to save or protect human life.
Including awardees for 2013, a total of 78 medals have been presented since the first recipients were honored in 2003, according to WhiteHouse.gov.
"You all share — you're all crazy, God love you — you all share a selflessness that's not easy to explain, a commitment to your fellow man that's rare, a bravery that inspires," said Vice President Joe Biden.