Exemplary ‘first responders’ again honored by American Legion Post

Find out why one police officer, and one firefighter, were singled out for honors – at a traditional outer East Portland celebration …

First responders from Portland Fire & Rescue and the Portland Police Bureau gather at the 2014 Russ Lemmon Memorial Friendship Dinner, at the American Legion Portland Post #1 in Mill Park.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The American Legion Portland Post #1 – “The Service Post” – banquet hall was full of celebrants in “first responder” uniforms. Outside, the big fire rigs parked in front were confirmation that the annual dinner honoring Police and Fire Bureaus was underway for 2014, on the evening of May 17.

As the honorees, and their friends and families, joined Post members in dining on a three-course buffet dinner, Post Commander John Bolner talked about the observance.

Post Commander John Bolner begins the awards ceremony.

“This is our 30th annual ‘Russ Lemmon Memorial Friendship Dinner’, here at the Post,” Bolner told East Portland News.

Russ Lemmon, a Post member for many years, started the event, Bolner said. “To us, maintaining the tradition is important. We’re honoring the police and fire fighters that keep us safe every day. This gives us an opportunity to show our support and give recognition that is really needed.

“Military veterans have an affinity with emergency responders,” Bolner said. “We’ve all taken risks, worked for freedom, and served the citizens of our country.”

2014 Russ Lemmon Award – Portland Police Bureau

Portland Police Bureau Officer Michael Roberts accepts the “Police Officer of the Year” award from Post Commander John Bolner, as East Precinct Commander Sara Westbrook looks on.

As the special meal was ending, Portland Police Bureau (PPB) East Precinct Commander Sara Westbrook said she was delighted to be at the dinner for the first time since she took leadership of the Precinct last year.

“His peers and his supervisors nominated him, and I was privileged to make the selection, and introduce him,” Westbrook commented about Officer Michael Roberts, as the 2014 “Officer of the Year”.

East Precinct Commander Sara Westbrook tells why Officer Michael Roberts was chosen to represent the Bureau.

“Roberts has been a uniformed police officer for seven years; and he has been assigned to the afternoon shift of East Precinct since September 2011,” Westbrook said. “Over his short tenure there, he has received 13 letters of combinations from citizens in our community.

“He’s hard worker; he has the skills and the ability that makes him a great officer,” Westbrook remarked. “But, more than that, he cares about people. He is a really good communicator, and a ‘natural de-escalator’ when people are very angry or upset.”

Additionally, Roberts volunteered to become a PPB Enhanced Crisis Intervention Team officer, and has trained in hostage negotiations and advanced suicide intervention.

During the formal program, Westbrook described Roberts as “professional, yet [with an] easy demeanor.”

During the Precinct Commander’s remarks, she praised Roberts’ accomplishments, and described how he demonstrates the qualities of a superb police officer – exhibiting the qualities of competency, compassion, and trustworthiness.

Officer Michael Roberts passes credit to co-workers.

Accepting the award, Roberts reflected, “In some ways, I get to dress up like a superhero when I go out to ‘do the right thing’. The work we do is, for the most part, thankless. I am hated and feared by people more than I am loved. I’ve grown comfortable with that, as part of the daily function of what I do.

“It’s really rare that you get an honest ‘thank you’,” Roberts said. “That’s what makes a day like today pretty special.

“I am absolutely proud and thankful that I am allowed to wear this uniform, and to act in this capacity. Every chance I get to help the world around me is a gift, and is in itself its own reward.”

Saying he was “honored and humbled” to be selected for the award, Roberts deflected the praise to those who serve with him. “I am working with some really amazing people. I have never before in my career had so much support – from the command staff through to the people with whom I work every day.”

Turning to the firefighters at the dinner, Roberts told them he was happy to see they “could tear themselves away from their video games long enough to come!

“But allow me to thank all the men and women of the Portland Fighter Bureau. Because I love poking fun at you – but you are amazing. It’s refreshing to see how you always ‘put your best foot forward’ while dealing with the same yahoos that we deal with!”

During the banquet, Officer Michael Roberts shares a moment with his wife Meadow Sisto.

Turning to his wife, Roberts said they’d just celebrated their 17th wedding anniversary, “You are an amazing support, through my best and my worst – often revolving around the badge that I wear. I wish I were more like you.”

Why did he become a cop? Roberts remarked to East Portland News, “You don’t sign up to just bust crooks. I signed up because I care – I care enough to try every day to make a positive difference.”

About his award, Roberts reflected, “I don’t deserve accolades, over the rest of my team – like I said, I work for some amazing people. It’s hard work, but they all do great work every day.”

2014 Russ Lemmon Award – Portland Fire & Rescue

PF&R Captain Greg Espinosa, Captain Jerry Bartolome, and Post Commander John Bolner congratulate Firefighter Adam P. Salvetti on being named “Firefighter of the Year”.

Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) Station 1 Captain Greg Espinosa talked about the Bureau’s selection for “Firefighter of the Year”, Adam P. Salvetti.

As he took the podium, Espinosa smiled slyly at the police officers seated at a table. “There is one thing that all police officers and firefighters have in common.” he said sincerely, and paused before letting loose the punch line: “That is, they both wanted to be firefighters!”

Captain Greg Espinosa tells why the Fire Bureau selected Adam Salvetti to be honored.

Salvetti is a 12-year firefighter, Espinosa said, “and, he is a tireless worker. At Station 1, we manage the Technical Rescue program, of which I’m the Captain. Anytime there is a project that needs to be done, I gave it to Adam; I’ve learned that if I give him a project it’s going to get done, and it’s going to get done right.”

Salvetti is one of the first Urban Search & Rescue (USAR) instructors certified in the state, Espinosa revealed. Further, he specified the equipment and supplies for a SAR rig, located at PF&R Parkrose Station 12 on NE Sandy Boulevard.

Telling about the support he’s received is Firefighter of the Year Adam Salvetti.

Responding to his award, Salvetti began, “I am but a fragile clay vessel and would be nowhere without the guidance of the Lord and his Holy Spirit. I try a daily to follow his path. Without him I believe I would be divorced again, and be a young, ‘crusty ball of anger’.

“I’ve had a lot of great support of people, who have been strategically placed into my life,” Salvetti continued. “I have my wonderful wife Karen, here. She is my life compass. I’ve got my three great kids. They keep me honest and make sure that I’m having fun at home.”

Firefighter Adam Salvetti celebrates his award with wife Karen Salvetti.

Salvetti went on, paraphrasing Proverbs 15:22, “It is said, ‘Without counsel, things go awry. And, in a multitude of counselors success is established’. Nothing I’ve done have I done on my own. I’ve learned from everyone I come into contact with. Everyone I’ve worked with, from the Training Division to the fellows in Logistics, and more, have helped me.”

He continued, listing by name the many command staff and coworkers who helped him learn and grow – both honoring and roasting them at the same time.

Salvetti later told East Portland News how he decided to become a firefighter. “In high school I searched for a good career. Once I started, I thought to myself ‘There is really something to this job’. The more I’ve worked with the Fire Bureau, the more I enjoy it.”

About being named “Firefighter of the Year”, he added, “It’s a little unexpected, actually. And it’s a great honor and blessing, for sure.”

© 2014 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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