Department of Corrections and Community Supervision

2004 MEDAL RECIPIENTS

The following is a list of the Department's 2004 medals honorees, their citations and personal information:


MEDAL OF HONOR

Awarded to “an employee whose actions, in the line of duty, evidence an extraordinary degree of courage, bravery or heroism.”

Michael L. Williams, Investigator - Inspector General’s Office

On October 17, 2003, Investigator Michael L. Williams of the Inspector General’s Office was on duty in Iraq, serving our Nation and protecting our freedom. He was an Army Specialist assigned to the 105th Military Police Company of the Army National Guard. Specialist Williams and several other soldiers were returning to camp in a military vehicle along the MSR Jackson near Baghdad. He was killed in action when their vehicle struck and detonated an improvised explosive device in the roadway. Mr. Williams’ choice to put his own life in danger for the safety of all Americans is in the highest service that a citizen can render their Nation. His death reminds all Americans of the bravery and valor of those serving in our armed forces. It is with the greatest respect and deepest admiration that we posthumously recall his sacrifice today.


MEDAL OF MERIT

Awarded to “an employee for extraordinary performance in the line of duty or for an exceptional contribution to the Department.”

Michael Rybczynski, Correction Officer - Albion Correctional Facility

On November 19, 2003, you heard the sounds from a loud fight emanating from your back yard. Upon investigation, you observed a Buffalo police officer engaged in a violent fight with a crime suspect. The suspect was high on crack and possessed superhuman strength. That was turning the fight into a life or death struggle for the officer. Without regard for your own safety, you came to the police officer’s assistance. Even with your help, it took approximately five minutes to subdue the suspect. It was later discovered that other police officers had received the officer’s call for assistance, but an equipment malfunction prevented them from learning his location. While his fellow officers began a frantic search from his last known location, they were unable to locate him. They did not arrive in time to help subdue the suspect. Your decision to put your own safety at risk by intervening may very well have saved the police officer’s life.


Andrew D. Dannheim, Correction Officer - Attica Correctional Facility

On February 17, 2003, you saved your elderly, wheelchair-bound neighbor from his burning residence. Your daughter alerted you to a fire raging in the next door home of Timothy Baron. Your first response was, appropriately, to call 911. You then rushed next door and assisted Mr. Baron in escaping from his apartment at the rear of the building. The fire spread from the rear to the front of the building in about 20 minutes. The structure was deemed a total loss. You are being credited for taking quick action, without regard for your own safety, that saved Mr. Baron’s life.


Paul J. O Connell, ASAT Assistant - Clinton Correctional Facility

On February 19, 2003, you were in Nicaragua acting as an adult chaperone for a youth trip sponsored by the North Country Mission of Hope. On their last day in the country, several adult volunteers joined their teenage charges in taking one last swim. A treacherous riptide pulled the volunteers off their feet and out to sea. While the volunteers were able to make it back to shore, exhausted from their efforts, two young students still remained caught in the riptide. You plunged into the surf and swam out to sea for approximately 15 to 20 minutes to reach the girls. Unable to tow them in together, you pushed them forward with each incoming wave, moving ten feet toward shore with each wave. After pushing them 150 feet towards shore, a vacationing Canadian lifeguard came to your assistance with a tow rope. If not for your brave actions, it is very likely that these two young girls may not have survived.


Michael F. Venne, Correction Officer - Coxsackie Correctional Facility

On June 18, 2003, Plattsburgh resident Samuel Thuesen, age 76, was fly fishing with a friend on the upper part of the Saranac River. He lost his footing and fell into the river. Mr. Thuesen's friend rushed up the riverbank to the roadway. He began flagging down vehicles for help. You stopped your vehicle and charged down to the river’s edge. You observed Mr. Thuesen trapped in a small whirlpool about 100 feet off shore. The water in this section of the river is 90 feet deep and was ice cold. You swam out to Mr. Thuesen, who was floating on his back with his head submersed in water. You lifted Mr. Thuesen's head out of the water and dragged his body back to shore. You then began CPR. Ambulance workers arrived and transported Mr. Thuesen to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Your fearless action put your life in jeopardy, a fact undiminished by the unfortunate death of Mr. Thuesen.


Donald M. Ballard, Correction Officer - Great Meadow Correctional Facility

On September 8, 2003, you were driving along County Route 40 in the Town of Hartford. You came upon a vehicle off the road and its engine compartment engulfed in flames. The Hartford Fire Chief and a passing motorist had also stopped to give assistance. You approached the vehicle and observed the driver was unconscious inside. After unsuccessfully attempting to open the driver’s door, you rounded the vehicle and entered through the passenger side front door. You fought the smoke and fire to free the driver’s seat belt and to open the driver’s door from the inside of the vehicle. You exited the vehicle and ran to the driver s side door. You and the passerby extricated the driver from the vehicle, only seconds before it burst into flames. You administered CPR while teaching the passerby how to do the same. You are one of the three individuals credited with saving this man s life. Without your efforts and disregard for your own safety, the victim surely would not have survived the fire that engulfed his vehicle.


David A. Buckbee, Correction Officer - Mid-State Correctional Facility

On March 4, 2003, you were driving to work when you saw smoke billowing from a private residence on State Route 49. You immediately drove to the house. You heard voices coming from inside the house and broke down the front door. You located an elderly couple, one of whom had an oxygen tank, and a 9-year-old boy. You escorted all three out of the burning home, but returned upon learning there were two more occupants inside. Crawling on your hands and knees due to the intense smoke, you located a boy in a rear bedroom and carried him to the front door and passed him to a neighbor. You and Marcy CO Lawrence Ciaccia then reentered the building to locate the last resident. This time, conditions made it impossible to do anything but retreat from the house before you could locate the last resident who died in the fire. Your truly heroic actions contributed to saving four lives.


Lawrence M. Ciaccia, Correction Officer - Mid-State Correctional Facility

On March 4, 2003, you were driving to work when you observed a burning house on State Route 49. You immediately responded to the home. Without regard to your personal safety, you entered the burning structure. Along with Mid-State CO David Buckbee, you were able to rescue two elderly and two young residents from the inflamed home. This action required numerous entries into the smoke filled structure. When smoke and fire drove you out the front door, you reentered through the back door. You continued in your attempts to locate a fifth occupant until conditions drove you, CO Buckbee and State Trooper L. Marfone out of what had become a fully-involved house fire. Your heroic efforts contributed to saving four lives.