Harbor Fire Department held an unusual awards banquet this year as the presentations happened 1,300 miles apart at Blue Water Cafe and Lounge in Harbor and the Lamar Fire Department in Colorado.

Every year, one Harbor firefighter is presented the Above and Beyond Award in memory of longtime Harbor Fire Chief Frank Kelley. The award is presented to a firefighter who has volunteered talents to the department above and beyond the call of duty, Chief John Brazil said at Sunday’s banquet.

This year the award was presented to Joe “JT” Miller, who recently moved from Brookings to Lamar where he is living closer to family.

Getting the award to Miller took two weeks of planning and working with the deputy chief in Lamar. Brazil said he and the deputy chief agreed to hold off on the presentation of the plaque until today, because if it happened too soon, many in the department would know of the award before the banquet.

It still came 15 minutes too soon. Miller was called into the fire hall where he was presented the award. He quickly posted a photo on Facebook, which was seen by Harbor firefighters while they were eating lunch. Brazil asked for a show of hands of how many knew of Miller’s award. Most knew.

“It freaked me out at first when the fire department called and said they needed to talk to me,” Miller said. “So when I met up with them, they presented the award and shook my hand. They told me that it had been a two-week ordeal.”

Miller shared on Facebook, “Even though I’m 1,300 miles away, John Brazil never ceases to amaze me. Today I received the Above and Beyond Award… Thank you. I am both humbled and grateful to receive this honor. Thanks to all at the Harbor Fire Department. Congratulations to all of you.”

Brazil said he was “happy the deputy chief worked with us and made the presentation for us.”

Miller was a member of the department for seven years and has volunteered more than 2,000 hours, which has included maintenance around the fire hall. He has worked his way through the ranks and was promoted to lieutenant in 2016. He is also a certified engineer (driver), Brazil said.

In addition to Miller receiving an award, his name will be added to a wall plaque at the Harbor Fire Hall.

Another award that was a well-kept secret was the presentation of Officer of the Year to Deputy Chief Patra Brazil. By the beginning of the banquet, she had all the awards compiled and presented to the Pilot in advance. When the award was introduced, she told the Pilot, “I have no idea what’s going on here.” Then Chief Brazil, and his top officers Thomas Sorrentino and Richard Smith called her up to present her the award.

Other awards were Rookie of the Year presented to Neville Hill, Medical Assistant of the Year to Sharon Rash and Firefighter of the Year to Pennie Wolf.

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