Volunteer Firefighter Receives Posthumous Medal of Valor 8 Years After 9/11

Sept. 11, 2009
On Sept. 9, the family of Glenn Winuk, an off-duty volunteer firefighter who lost his life on 9/11 when he raced to ground zero to offer assistance, accepted the 9/11 Medal of Valor on his behalf. This honor comes after a lengthy legal battle fighting to recognize Winuk as having died in the line of duty.

The 9/11 Heroes Medal of Valor is a special Medal of Valor for the public safety officers who were killed as a result of the terrorist attacks in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., and Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., who both presented the medal to the family, had called on the Justice Department to officially cite Winuk for his bravery and recommend to the president that medal be awarded.

On the morning of Sept. 11, just moments after the attacks on the World Trade Center, Winuk raced from his nearby evacuated law office at 195 Broadway equipped with a paramedic bag to participate in the rescue effort. He died later that morning when the South Tower collapsed. His remains were found in March 2002, a first response medic bag and the remains of other first responders by his side.

An attorney by profession, Winuk served as an emergency medical technician. Because he was classified only as an associate member of the Jericho, Long Island, volunteer fire department, King said the Justice Department balked at the death benefits due survivors of public safety officers killed in the line of duty and at the Medal of Valor.

King: The Wrong Has Been Righted

After a more than 4-year long legal battle, the Department of Justice dropped its appeal of a June 2007 federal court ruling granting Winuk recognition under the DOJ’s Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Act as having died in the line of duty. According to King, Winuk’s family had to wait “far too long and fight far too hard” for this honor, as well as the $250,000 in compensation that was merited by law.

“That wrong has now been righted,” King said in a statement. “But the department's protracted resistance sadly illustrates the government's broader failure to do right by Americans who gave their health and lives in the terrorist attack. As the feds finally did in the case of Glenn Winuk, so must they do for all 9/11 heroes, victims and survivors, with proper health care and compensation.”

The 9/11 Heroes Medal of Valor Act was signed into law in 2005 to recognize those public safety officers who were killed, including NYPD, FDNY, Port Authority police officers, emergency services workers and many other officers. On July 1, 2005, a list of 442 public safety officers was certified by the Attorney General to receive the medal, and on Sept. 9, 2005, President Bush presented the medals to the surviving families of the fallen heroes.

Winuk was 40 years old when he died. He had been trained as a firefighter and an emergency medical technician, and had worked with the Jericho department for 19 years. For his act of bravery and in acknowledgment of his credentials as a qualified rescuer, he also has been honored by New York State, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, the National EMS Memorial Service, the FDNY Honor Legion, at the Firefighters Memorial Wall at ground zero and elsewhere.

At the medal presentation, Schumer and King were joined by the Winuk’s parents and brother, along members of the local fire department and other community leaders.

"This has been a long, tough fight and I am extremely pleased that the Department of Justice did the right thing by recognizing Glenn's heroic and courageous actions on Sept. 11,” said King.

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