Peninsula's heroes honored at annual American Legion Safety Awards dinner

LARRY KELLIS photo Mark Svinth, Kevin Martin, Steven Bellinger, Myron Stein and Gabriel Sage were five of six men who received recognition at the 19th Annual Safety Awards. Each year, local emergency service departments pick one individual who exemplifies their department's ideal employee. Sage's daughter made sure her daddy was safe.

ILWACO - The Post No. 48 American Legion Hall hosted quite a crowd to celebrate the 19th Annual Derald D. Robertson Safety Awards Thursday evening.

Members of the Peninsula's finest gathered with family, friends and coworkers to enjoy a potluck dinner prepared by the Legion, as well as socialize and congratulate six local men who were awarded for their exceptional safety efforts.

"Tonight is about celebrating unsung heroes," said American Legion State of Washington Department Commander Charles Kelley. "These people are out pulling a shift in the rain while you and I are at home sleeping."

Petty Officer First Class Myron Stein from U.S. Coast Guard Station Cape Disappointment and Petty Officer Gabriel R. Sage from the U.S. Coast Guard Group Astoria were both presented with the Coast Guardsman of the Year Award for their long hours of boat repairs and their dedication to saving lives from the rough seas.

Long Beach Police Officer Kevin R. Martin and Washington State Trooper Mark Svinth were both presented with the Police Officer of the Year Award for their commitment to safety and their outstanding community efforts.

Pacific County Fire Protection District No. 1's Steven Bellinger was awarded with Firefighter/Paramedic of the Year for his dedication to community safety. Though he was unable to attend the ceremony, Ilwaco Volunteer Fire Department Assistant Chief Kerry G. Suomela was the recipient of the Firefighter of the Year Award for his lifesaving efforts.

Award recipients were presented with certificates, plaques, American Legion pins from the department commander, as well as thank you letters from Senator Mark Doumit, Representatives Brian Blake and Dean Takko, and Pacific County Commissioner John Kaino for the recipients' positive influence on Pacific County and the rest of the state.

"These awards go to people who go above and beyond the call of duty," explained Post Commander Pat Manning.

"We can't hold the six of you any higher than we do right now," praised Kelley.

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