CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Governor Jim Justice honoring three first responders for their service above self Wednesday during West Virginia’s second Medal of Valor ceremony at the State Culture Center.

Upshur County Sheriff Mike Coffman and Deputy Director Derek Long in Upshur County, as well as State Police Sergeant David S. Fry were recognized and presented the medal for their display of extraordinary bravery in the line of duty.

Justice addressing first responders during the ceremony, said no one would know what to do when their lives are in danger without them.

Medal of Valor award

“You are the first people we call, the first person we call when we’re in real trouble is you, and what do you do, over and over and I’ve said the same thing, you run to the fire, you run to the defense of all of us,” said Justice.

The Medal of Valor, which is a prestigious recognition of courage and sacrifice that those on the frontlines make to protect the lives of others, was presented to the first round of seven recipients last year.

Medal of Valor recipients are selected by The First Responder Honor Board after they look at a certain number of criteria the first responders must meet. After the board votes, the names are confirmed by both the West Virginia House of Delegates and the state Senate.

Deputy Cabinent Secretary for Homeland Security Rob Cuttingham was Wednesday’s Magistrate of Ceremonies. He said there is no one more deserving than these three first responders.

“As we reflect on the sacrifices made and the challenges overcome by these upstanding first responders, let us not only celebrate their individual acts of valor, but also acknowledge a collective spirit of courage and service, and unwavering commitment to duty,” said Cuttingham.

In 2022, Coffman and Long responded to an active shooter situation on Interstate 79 in Lewis County when a man stopped his vehicle in the middle of the northbound lanes, got out and started shooting at passing motorists.

Although Coffman was critically injured after getting shot in the leg, he continued to assist the situation and help to offset the threat.

Long, serving as the Upshur County Emergency Management/ Homeland Security Deputy Director and a volunteer firefighter, not only ensured Coffman’s prompt medical treatment and transport, but also provided vital information which aided in getting the shooter contained before he was killed by police.

Cuttingham said both worked to ensure the situation did not become even worse and prevented any casualties from arising.

“The heroic and selfless actions of both Sheriff Coffman and Deputy Director Long not only saved the lives, but also prevented any additional injuries from being inflicted upon the citizens of the state of West Virginia,” he said.

Coffman was previously awarded a Purple Heart for his bravery in December 2022 and in April of last year, he was promoted to sheriff in Upshur County.

Sgt. Fry responded to a domestic violence call in Lincoln County in March 2017. A man high on methamphetamines was holding his wife hostage with a gun.

Cuttingham said Fry acted to save the women’s life by stepping in between her and the offender as he was discharging his gun.

“Corporal Fry’s selfless acts in the face of an armed perpetrator provided the victim a window of opportunity to escape the residence, thus saving her life,” he said.

However, Fry was shot in the shoulder and the wrist.

After eight months of recovery, reconstructive surgery on his arm, and intense physical therapy, Fry was able to return to work where he was promoted to sergeant. He subsequently retired.

Cuttingham said his heroic actions that day remains a testament to his courage and honor in serving the state.

“His service to the state of West Virginia is exemplified by his heroic actions in the early morning hours of March 28, 2017,” said Cuttingham.

Fry was also presented a Purple Heart and was selected as the 2017 State Trooper of the Year.

Justice said the induction of the Medal of Valor program in West Virginia is all owed to the late Hershal “Woody” Williams, a Quiet Dell, WV native and the last surviving World War II Medal of Honor recipient.

“When Woody Williams came to me in 2020 and said this is something we ought to do that absolutely salutes our first responders in every way, and what an incredible man Woody Williams was, we don’t need to go into all of that right now, but gracious goodness, how he served this nation,” said Justice.

Justice said Williams believed first responders needed some sort of recognition for their service like they have in the military.

Williams died on June 29, 2022 at the age of 98, before he could see the Medal of Valor program come to fruition in the state, but Justice