National Commander Jimmie L. Foster presents the Firefighter of the Year Award to Captain Brian S. Michel of Pike County Emergency Services at the 2011 American Legion National Convention in Minneapolis, Wednesday, Aug., 31, 2011. Photo by Tom Strattman

Legion awards Firefighter of Year

As a volunteer fireman from Pike County, Ga., Captain Brian Michel was named The American Legion's Firefighter of the Year during the Legion's 2011 National Convention in Minneapolis.

In a nomination letter to The American Legion from his Pike County Emergency Services (PCES) superiors, Captain Brian Michel is characterized as "the embodiment of a volunteer firefighter" providing service that is "professional, unselfish, dedicated and knowledgeable." The letter also notes that a citation Michel received last year as PCES Firefighter of the Year "fails to fully explain how much of an asset (he) is to the department and to the community. Captain Michel has been volunteering with the department for almost seven years without want of compensation or an agenda. He responds regardless of time, weather or season."

Besides carrying out his volunteer firefighter duties with distinction - which include acting as an instructor and public educator and serving as a lead diver in the PCES dive team - Captain Michel is credited with saving the lives of four citizens over the past three years. In 2009, Captain Michel received the Cardiac Life Saving Award for his help in successfully treating a heart attack victim.

Also in 2009, Captain Michel helped rescue a child who was trapped beneath a large pile of heavy debris consisting of dirt, rocks and tree stumps. The boy was dug out of what could have been his grave with bare hands and hand tools. The following year, Captain Michel helped save the life of a patient bleeding from a dialysis shunt by applying blood staunching first aid methods; he was recognized with his department's Rescue Life Saving and Medical Life Saving awards for those actions. It should be mentioned that Captain Michel's life-saving actions pre-date 2009, as well, but that his department's awards program has only been in existence for two years.

Captain Michel was named First Responder of the Year by his department in 2009 and has also been lauded for his heroism. "As a station officer," his nomination letter states, "Captain Michel is often part of an interior team charged with finding and attacking the seat of a fire. (He) uses all of his training, ability and experience as he gives consistent guidance, calmly leading personnel in dangerous, quickly evolving environments. By doing so, he is a great example of leadership to his station personnel and those of other stations."

Further evidence of Captain Michel's dedication to public safety is the fact that he is also employed as a full-time firefighter in Griffin, Ga.