SPRINGFIELD -- Firefighters gathered Thursday in Springfield to mourn the deaths of four Illinois firefighters in 2006 and celebrate the bravery of 27 others.






SPRINGFIELD -- Firefighters gathered Thursday in Springfield to mourn the deaths of four Illinois firefighters in 2006 and celebrate the bravery of 27 others.

The Annual Firefighters Medal of Honor ceremony began at the Illinois Fallen Firefighter Memorial statue on the southwest side of the state Capitol. A solemn procession of participants followed the Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois Honor Guard to the Howlett Building next door.

Four firefighters who died in the line of duty last year were honored with the Duty Death Gold Badge.

Tina Armstrong, the widow of Atlanta volunteer firefighter Roger Armstrong, who died January 21, 2006, accepted the badge for her husband.

“This is for him,” said Tina, who serves as a volunteer emergency medical technician in Atlanta and worked with her husband on calls. “He was very proud of what he did. He did a great job, and I’m proud to take this on his behalf.”

Roger Armstrong, a volunteer firefighter for eight years and an EMT for seven, suffered a heart attack while working at a fire in Waynesville.

Ric Cheek, chief of the Atlanta fire department, described Armstrong as an excellent firefighter, always working to get better.

“He spent an enormous amount of time at our firehouse,” Cheek said. “He was a very good fireman, very dedicated.”

Cheek, who said he not only served with Armstrong, but counted him as a friend, believed Armstrong just wanted to serve the community in which he lived.

Four firefighters were awarded Medals of Honor, the highest honor given to firefighters in the state, for heroic actions beyond the call of duty.

Driver Todd Warrick of the Jacksonville Fire Department received a Medal of Honor for rescuing two women from a fire in their home.

While getting ready for work on Feb. 13, 2006, Warrick, a firefighter for 19 years, heard a call on the police radio about a fire on the same block as his house.

Afraid that his neighbors might be inside, Warrick ran to their back door and then the front, but both were locked. He kicked in the front door to search the house.

“I knew that when I went into that house, I wasn’t going to come out unless I had two other people with me,” Warrick said.

He found his neighbor and her daughter and helped them out of the house, but not before being burned by falling embers, he said. Warrick still has the scorched shirt he was wearing that day, calling it a reminder to never go into a fire without his gear.

“I kept that shirt to remind me not to do dumb things like that anymore,” Warrick said with a laugh.

Thirteen firefighters, including firefighter John Burns and engineer Jami Lusher of the Pekin Fire Department, received Firefighter Excellence Awards.

Burns and Lusher were honored for their efforts to save a man trapped in the basement of a burning house. After arriving at the house, which was enveloped in flames, Lusher said he “soaked the fire at the top of the stairs, so (Burns) could go down and come back up with the guy.”

Burns, a firefighter for more than five years, said receiving the award was overwhelming.

“It’s nothing nobody else wouldn’t have done,” he said of his actions.

Lusher, who has served for 11 years, said he was surprised by the award.

Two Chicago firefighters received the Medal of Valor for bravery in the line of duty.

Certificate of Recognition awards honored eight men.



Laura Camper can be reached at (217) 782-6882 or laura.camper@sj-r.com.



Duty Death Gold Badge:

Firefighter Roger Armstrong, Atlanta Fire Protection District

Firefighter Jeff Irwin, Eldorado Fire Department

Firefighter Dana MacCrimmon, Carbondale Fire Department

Assistant Fire Chief Harold Taylor, Central Warren Country Fire Protection District



Medal of Honor Awards:

Firefighter Thomas Garswick, Chicago Fire Department

Lt. Herbert Johnson, Chicago Fire Department

Lt. Joseph Kish, Chicago Fire Department

Driver Todd Warrick, Jacksonville Fire Department



Medal of Valor Awards:

Capt. Daniel McDermott, Chicago Fire Department

Firefighter Alejandro Mercado, Chicago Fire Department



Firefighter Excellence Awards:

Lt. Daniel Ferguson, Chicago Fire Department

Firefighter Mark Pecor, Chicago Fire Department

Firefighter Kevin Wirtz, Chicago Fire Department

Firefighter William Reiter, Edwardsville Fire Department

Probationary firefighter Matthew Sinnokrak, Edwardsville Fire Department

Firefighter/Paramedic John Hutchinson, Glenview Fire Department

Lt. Paul Klicker, Glenview Fire Department

Probationary firefighter Scott Waddle, Glenview Fire Department

Firefighter Kevin Holman, Morris Fire Protection District

Capt. Jeff Wilson, Morris Fire Protection District

Firefighter John Burns, Pekin Fire Department

Engineer Jami Lusher, Pekin Fire Department

Lt. Tom Robertson, Wilmette Fire Department



Certificate of Recognition Awards:

Engineer Glenn McAuliff, Country Club Hills Fire Department

Firefighter/Paramedic Carl Pycz, Country Club Hills Fire Department

Firefighter/Paramedic Robert Olszewski, Crystal Lake Fire Rescue

Firefighter/Paramedic Matthew Thuma, Crystal Lake Fire Rescue

Firefighter Marcos Enriques, Morris Fire Protection District

Capt. Timothy Smeltzer, Northbrook Fire Department

Firefighter/Paramedic Scott Ewen, Wilmette Fire Department

Firefighter/Paramedic Dave Grajewski, Wilmette Fire Department