XENIA — Gary Johnson says he was only doing his job.
But when the Xenia police Sergeant entered a burning vehicle to remove the driver moments before it became engulfed in flames, it was a heroic act worthy of fanfare.
Johnson, a 23-year police veteran, received such kudos when the Xenia Police Division recently handed out its annual awards. Johnson received the Casey Elliott Memorial City’s Finest Award and the Distinguished Service Award for not only rescuing the elderly man last October but for his entire body of work in 2013.
“I was just honored to receive them,” Johnson said. “It sounds cliche-ish but I didn’t do anymore than any other officer would have. We’re about protecting the public. If I have any chance at all of doing that, I’m going to do that. I was just in the right place in the right time.”
Johnson has a knack of being a “johnny on the spot.”
When the police division needed a temporary administrative sergeant, a position that was supposed to last 18 months, he didn’t complain when it lasted more than eight years.
“He also gave of his talents to other departments throughout the city during this time,” according to a release from the police division. “These projects were very intense and stressful and required much sacrifice from him and much support and sacrifice from his family. His loyalty and perseverance during this part of his career were very important to Xenia Police Division and the City of Xenia as a whole.”
Despite the praise, Johnson was not anticipating the department’s top honor.
“I knew I was going to get an award for pulling the guy out of the car,” he said. “I certainly was not expecting the Casey Award. I was excited. It just felt good to know that my peers felt like I was deserving of that.”
Johnson didn’t take all the credit.
“We had an emotionally busy summer,” he said. “We had a lot of major calls and activity that just happened to fall on my shift. We worked through it. We worked well as a team.”
Officers Rob Swihart and Noah Sebastinas teamed up to try and save a life and went above and beyond the call of duty, the release said. They received the Meritorious Service Award.
The Communications Operator of the Year Award went to Tricia Balonier for her dedication and support of the Xenia/Greene Communications Center.
The Silver Shield Commendation was presented to Officer Chris Reed for the highest level of overall patrol operations within the patrol section.
This was the 23rd year the police division has awarded its officers.