American Legion Post 113 recognizes public safety service in Virginia Beach

Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Deputy Amanda Vela receives an award from American Legion Post 113 during a ceremony honoring members of the public safety community in February 2019. [John-Henry Doucette/The Princess Anne Independent News]


VIRGINIA BEACH – American Legion Princess Anne Post 113 recognized four members of the Virginia Beach public safety community during its annual Law and Order Day celebration.

The post recognized fire Capt. Harold Hill, volunteer emergency medical technian Bill Lindsey, police Officer K.E. Tassa and sheriff’s Deputy Amanda Vela, all of whom were nominated for the awards by their respective department or office.

Robert Holdren, a past commander of the post, said the post was honored to recognize members of the public safety community each year – and that many more were deserving of recognition for their work.

State Sen. Bill DeSteph, R-8th District, and City Councilmember Jessica Abbott, who holds the Kempsville District seat, spoke during the event in February.

“You who serve and have served have significance, and of course, these fine young men and women, who are the front line – again, you are the front line – are putting their lives on the line for us every single day under constant scrutiny,” DeSteph said during remarks.

“For that, thank you,” he added. “I am very appreciative of your service and very happy you’re there.”

Abbott spoke about a moment in which she and her young sister were helped by public safety personnel when a roof at her elementary school in Chambersburg, Pa., collapsed in 1995.

“Nearly 50 first responders arrived at school that day, and I will never forget the one who came out of the school carrying my sister in his arms,” Abbott said.

Abbott was 6 at the time, and she recalled standing in the parking lot while holding the hand of one of the rescuers who responded.

“It left an imprint of gratitude and respect to you all in this room and to everyone who chooses a life of service,” she said. “I share this personal story with you because there are points in everyone’s lives in which a loved one or themselves have been uplifted by the actions of a first responder.”

The awardees:

Virginia Beach Fire Capt. Harold Hill [The Independent News]

Fire Capt. Harold Hill earned the 2018 Firefighter Award. A nominating letter from the Fire Department characterized Hill as an exceptional mentor “not only in his own personal behavior, but in his willingness to bring others along the journey with him.”

Hill has been active with ladder companies, committees and as an instructor for the Fire Explorers Program, which engages young people in the fire service and working for the community.

Hill was a key reason for the success of the Auto Aid program, according to the nomination. That work includes coordinating closely with Chesapeake and Norfolk and hosting training at Station 10, where he is assigned. 

The agreement, which went into effect in 2015, ensures that a rescue response is dispatched to calls in areas along the borders of the communities from the nearest station, regardless of whether city lines are crossed, according to The Virginian-Pilot.

“Capt. Hill has built a career dedicated to serving others’ needs,” the nominating letter states. “He has proven to always be at his best when people need him most.”

“I’m very honored,” Hill said during an interview. “It’s very nice that they recognize all parts of public safety.”

Virginia Beach EMT Bill Lindsey [The Independent News]

Bill Lindsey, an emergency medical technician who serves with the Plaza Volunteer Rescue Squad, was recognized with the Emergency Medical Services Award. The squad operates at Station 16 on South Plaza Trail, and Lindsey also serves as the supply lieutenant for the station.

In nominating Lindsey for the award, Virginia Beach Emergency Medical Services Retention Officer Katie Snell wrote that Lindsey has volunteered for five years, “dedicating countless hours as an EMT on an ambulance. Also, she wrote, he has served as an officer to help lead the squad.

“But what really defines Bill’s dedication to his fellow EMS providers and his community are the actions he performs outside of these capacities,” Snell wrote.

Among other acts, Lindsey came to the aid of his fellow volunteers during a snow storm in January 2018, driving his own vehicle to help free an ambulance stuck in the mud, Snell wrote.

“While others stayed home in the below-freezing temperatures,” Snell wrote, “Bill Lindsey heard the reports of his peers stuck in the snow and ventured out to quietly lend a hand. … [O]ver the course of several hours, Bill assisted a total of nine ambulances and even a stranded city tow truck.”

During an interview, Lindsey said he had no idea the honor was coming his way. He said he was simply told to keep the date open, and he added that he was grateful for the efforts of the American Legion post and to be recognized.

“It was pretty neat,” he said. 

Virginia Beach Police Officer K.E. Tassa [The Independent News]

The American Legion post recognized police Officer K.E. Tassa with the Police Department Award. In a memorandum nominating Tassa for the award, police Sgt. C.S. Brandt wrote that Tassa has demonstrated commitment and hard work in her duties and in pursuing training opportunities.

Among her accomplishments, Tassa has worked in the Virginia Beach Police Special Operations Traffic Safety Unit to apprehend impaired drivers and delivered lectures to members of the armed forces and city high school students about the dangers of drunk driving, Brandt wrote.

Tassa earned a life-saving award and other recognition last year. Among other things, she talked a suicidal person off a ledge at a parking garage, helped ensure the arrest of an armed juvenile suspect at a medical clinic and helped solve a road rage case that involved a shooting by stopping a driver who had drugs and a weapon in his vehicle. 

“These incidents are just a few cases of what Officer Tassa continuously does on a daily basis when she heads out on patrol,” Brandt wrote.

“It’s really cool,” Tassa said during an interview at the Law and Order Day event. “They’re all veterans, and I appreciate what they do.”

Tassa, who comes from a law enforcement family, said she appreciates the work because of the variety of ways police officers can help people.

“I like responding to different things and making a difference,” she said.

Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Deputy Amanda Vela [The Independent News]

Sheriff’s Deputy Amanda Vela, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, received the Sheriff’s Office Award. Vela, who has served in the sheriff’s office for four years, was recognized for her work in corrections and as a member of the office’s emergency response team.

In a memorandum nominating Vela for recognition, sheriff’s Lt. Gregg O’Neil wrote that Vela “distinguished herself through her steadfast commitment, exhaustive efforts and pride of purpose.”

“She is a true leader in every aspect of the definition,” O’Neil wrote. Vela has excelled in physical fitness, an area in which she is a state certified instructor, and she has been active in volunteering, working with elementary school students through the Lunch with a Deputy and Reading with a Deputy programs, O’Neill wrote.

“By participating in these great programs, elementary children see the sheriff’s deputies in a positive light,” O’Neill wrote, adding that her enthusiasm made others in the office want to volunteer, too.

“Going to the schools is something I love doing,” Vela said during an interview.

She said she was grateful for the recognition, too. “It’s awesome,” Vela said. “It’s an honor to be nominated for this.”

The speakers during American Legion Princess Anne Post 113’s Law and Order Day on Sunday, Feb. 10, included Virginia Beach City Councilmember Jessica Abbott, who represents the Kempsville District. [John-Henry Doucette/The Princess Anne Independent News]

State Sen. Bill DeSteph, R-8th District, also spoke during the event. [John-Henry Doucette/The Princess Anne Independent News]

Wayne Mead, commander of American Legion Princess Anne Post 113, listens to a speaker during the post’s Law and Order Day gathering on Sunday, Feb. 10, at Marian Manor in Virginia Beach. Post 113 recognizes members of the city’s public safety community for exemplary service each year. [John-Henry Doucette/The Princess Anne Independent News]

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