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Tennessee Department of Safety & Homeland Security Hosts Three Stars of Tennessee Award and First Responder Recognition Ceremony

Thursday, September 10, 2020 | 07:55pm

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security hosted the Three Stars of Tennessee Award and First Responder Recognition Ceremony today. The Three Stars of Tennessee Award honors public servants who have sacrificed their lives or suffered a career-ending injury in the line of duty. Governor Bill Lee, First Lady Maria Lee, Commissioner Jeff Long, State Senator Becky Massey (R-Knoxville), and Greg Mays, Director of the Tennessee Office of Homeland Security joined recipients, their family members and agency representatives to honor five recipients with the “Three Stars of Tennessee Award.”

“This event is very important to us,” Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Jeff Long said. “We owe a great amount thanks to the men and women first responders who sacrifice their life or their health for the safety of their fellow citizens. Our hearts go out to the families who had loved ones make the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty. We are proud to honor them with this award.”

During this ceremony, 16 first responders were recognized with First Responder awards for their heroic actions. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, the awards were not presented in-person as they have been in years past. Certificates will be sent to their respected agency who will then honor the first responder in a smaller setting.

This 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.

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

The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security’s mission is to serve, secure, and protect the people of Tennessee.


Three Stars of Tennessee Award Honorees

Master Patrol Officer Spencer Bristol (Posthumous) Hendersonville Police Department

Trooper Matthew Elias Gatti (Posthumous) Tennessee Highway Patrol

Officer Dustin Legieza (Posthumous) Brentwood Police Department

Officer Jeffrey Creighton (Career-ending injury) Memphis Police Department

Paramedic Heather Birdwell (Career-ending injury) Putnam County EMS


First Responder Recipients

Officer Derek Caleb Couch, Johnson City Police Department

Lieutenant Sammy Shaffer, Knoxville Police Department

Critical Care Paramedic Stephanie Johnson, Morristown, Hamblen EMS

Senior Firefighter James D. Nelson, Chattanooga Fire Department

Captain Joe Smith, Putnam County EMS

Trooper William Looper, Tennessee Highway Patrol

District Chief Brooke Haas, Nashville Fire Department

Officer Randy Cox, Clarksville Police Department

Firefighter Nick Greene, Clarksville Fire and Rescue

Officer Dustin Holley, Dyersburg Police Department

Field Training Officer Wesley C. Blankenship, Dyersburg Police Department Officer

Brandon Wheeler, Dyersburg Police Department

Sergeant Ricky Finley, McNairy County Sheriff’s Office

Sergeant Calvin Taylor, Memphis Police Department

Special Agent Robert Burghardt, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation

Lieutenant Charlie Caplinger, Tennessee Highway Patrol