Published: Friday, January 11, 2008
Senior Patrolman Joseph Wojciak, Austintown police: On the morning of May 8, 2007, Wojciak, sitting in his parked cruiser on the east side of the Kmart store, was approached by a male who asked for directions and left. Wojciak then moved his cruiser a short distance, and the man again approached him. But, this time the man shot Wojciak in the chest, and fled on foot. Wojciak pursued him in the cruiser, struck the man, who continued running until he fell. Wojciak apprehended the suspect before anyone including children in the area waiting for their school bus was injured. Wojciak was taken to St. Elizabeth Health Center, where it was discovered the bullet had been stopped by his bullet-proof vest.
Patrolman John J. Gocala, Boardman police: Gocala is recognized for his "bravery" in confronting and arresting an armed suspect during a large fight at the St. Charles Church Festival on June 24. His nominator said Gocala's actions prevented injury or death to innocent bystanders.
Patrolman Jeffrey R. Lytle, Boardman police: Lytle is recognized for his "professionalism and compassion" in providing emergency CPR and saving the life of an 8-day-old baby, whom he found unresponsive on the floor of the baby's home.
Pupils of Poland North Elementary School: In their art class, pupils created holiday ornaments through a program called Trees for Troops, which were shipped, along with Christmas trees, to American troops overseas. Included with the ornaments were notes from the pupils expressing their gratitude and respect. One of the ornaments caught the eye of a naval reservist serving in Qatar who is a graduate of Poland schools. She contacted the pupils to thank them, and in the weeks that followed, pupils and staff received e-mails from their new friend, videotaped messages from around the world and personalized messages from her fellow soldiers. While home on leave, she visited the pupils who had touched her life, and presented them with an American flag that had flown over the American Intelligence Base in Kabul, Afghanistan. One message from a soldier said she slept with some of the ornaments, which helped her keep her faith and gave her strength to get through the war's long, long days away from home.