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Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security Hosts Annual First Responders Awards Ceremony

“Three Stars of Tennessee Award” Recognized
Wednesday, September 11, 2019 | 03:35pm

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security hosted the annual First Responder Awards ceremony today.  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,” Long said.

The First Responder Awards ceremony has been a long standing tradition in memory of the September 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, Sen. Massey along with Commissioner Long made the presentations to “Three Stars of Tennessee Award” honorees and the first responder award recipients.

The “Three Stars of Tennessee Award” honorees accompany this release, as well as a list of those individuals who received First Responder awards.

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


The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security’s (www.TN.Gov/safety) mission is to serve, secure, and protect the people of Tennessee.