Florida Gov. Rick Scott awarded Florida National Guard Lt. Col. Julio Acosta with the Medal of Merit and seven state law enforcement officers with the Medal of Heroism for their bravery and service during and after Hurricane Irma.
Acosta is the battalion commander of the 1-124 Infantry and led more than 600 Guard members through lifesaving missions in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties in response to Irma.
His battalion also served as the initial response command cell for the Florida National Guard in Monroe County and helped to coordinate search-and-rescue support, route clearance operations, the reopening of Key West and Marathon airports and the provision of food, water and commodities to people in need.
“Hurricane Irma was a massive storm that impacted families, communities and businesses across our state,” Scott said in a statement. “I am proud of our many first responders, law enforcement officers and Florida National Guard members who bravely answered the call to help those in need. These individuals are some of the many heroes who put their lives on the line and stand ready to keep our families safe and protected every day. I am honored to recognize them today.”
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers Jefferson Carroll, Brittany Mobley and Clint Williams received the Medal of Heroism for helping to conduct search-and-rescue missions immediately after Irma in Monroe County, the hardest-hit area of the Keys.
The three, along with many others stationed in the Keys, also responded to requests for assistance and evacuation after the hurricane struck as a Category 4 storm. Although their homes were seriously damaged during the storm, the officers were dedicated to assisting people in their communities after the storm.
The three officers accepted the award on behalf of their brothers and sisters in law enforcement who also overcame personal difficulties to serve the public during this emergency, according to an FWC statement.
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Cpl. Justin Smith and Maj. Benjamin Burns also received the award for service during and after the storm, as well as Florida Forest Service supervisor Butch Galbraith and state Forest Ranger Kenny Harvey.
“I want to thank Gov. Scott for his support in honoring these three selfless FWC officers,” FWC Commission chairman Brian Yablonski said. “Although their homes were significantly damaged during the storm, they put their personal concerns aside and continued to assist others in Monroe County. Our officers in the Division of Law Enforcement will continue to proactively protect Floridians and conserve our precious natural resources.”