12 People Awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal by President Biden
“Public service is not about what you are willing to win but what you are willing to lose over.”President Biden said while giving remarks about Rusty Wallace, for Arizona Republican lawmaker who lost his career after standing up for democracy in the face of election deniers.
On Friday, January 6, 2023, two years after insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol, President Biden delivered remarks and awards to fourteen courageous people who made exemplary contributions to our democracy amid January 6, 2021.
I was there, at the Capitol, when the walls were breached serving as a witness to the stain left on our nation’s history. Unlike the twelve people receiving Citizens Medal – one of the nation’s highest civilian honors given by the President – for their illustration of true patriotism, the people scaling walls, breaching U.S. Capitol doors, assaulting law enforcement, hunting down members of Congress, waving their Trump flags, and denying the Biden’s election win were anything but so-called patriots.
Here’s a clip of what it looked like from outside the Capitol on January 6.
The room was packed with standing room only along the walls for press and secret service. The ceremony, which was originally slated for 2:00 p.m. ET, started around 3:00 p.m. ET. President Biden, however, didn’t waste time once he stood in front the podium. From the moment he stepped to the podium, President Biden was sharp and rather witty on this celebratory occasion. #UncleJoe was in full effect.
Full video can be viewed HERE.
The ceremony was bittersweet. On one hand, we had a moment to crystallize in history these exemplary acts. On the other hand, there were casualties along the way that cost people their lives and careers. We heard from former U.S. Capitol police officer Aquilino Gonell explaining how proud he and his team were to stop the insurrectionists from hurting any members of Congress and their staffers. The harsh reality is that Gonell lost his career; his promotion (because he could no longer perform his duties as a police officer); and lost two years from his life recovering from his injuries (physically and mentally).
Check out his full interview below.
Brian Sicknick, Howard Liebengood, and Jeffrey L. Smith, however, paid the ultimate price: with their lives.
Brian Sicknick (posthumous) was a Capitol Police officer who defended the Capitol on January 6th. After he lost his life protecting our elected representatives, Officer Sicknick was laid in honor in the Capitol rotunda in February 2021. The President, the First Lady, the Vice President, and the Second Gentleman visited to pay respects. In addition to guarding the Capitol for over a decade, Officer Sicknick also served in the New Jersey Air National Guard and was deployed to Saudi Arabia and Kyrgyzstan.
Howard Liebengood was a Capitol Police officer who died just days after protecting the Capitol during the insurrection. Liebengood spent 15 years as a member of the Capitol Police. The cause of his death was ruled to be suicide, according to a statement from representatives for his family.
Jeffrey L. Smith was a Metropolitan Police Department Officer who died by suicide following the events of Jan 6. Smith was injured by the mob of rioters while defending the Capitol, suffering head injuries, according to the White House.
They will never be forgotten.
Here is the full list of the Citizens Medal recipients:
Jocelyn Benson served as the Secretary of State of Michigan during the 2020 election and faced pressure from those seeking to overturn the election results, including armed protesters outside her home. Benson received the 2022 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage award.
Rusty Bowers served as the Arizona House Speaker during the 2020 election, resisting pressure from those seeking to overturn the election results. He received the 2022 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage award.
Harry Dunn is a Capitol Police Officer who defended the Capitol on January 6th, facing racial slurs and harassment from rioters. Dunn has served in the Capitol Police force for nearly fifteen years.
Caroline Edwards was the first law enforcement officer injured by rioters on January 6th. Even after suffering a traumatic brain injury, Officer Edwards worked to prevent rioters from entering the Capitol building. Officer Edwards has served in law enforcement for nearly six years.
Michael Fanone served as a Metropolitan Police Department Officer and defended the Capitol on January 6th, suffering injuries during the attack. After the attack, he resigned from the Metropolitan Police Department, having served for 20 years after joining in the wake of September 11th.
Ruby Freeman served as an election worker in Fulton County, Georgia, during the 2020 election. Ms. Freeman worked to ensure that the people of Georgia could vote freely and fairly, and, for simply doing her job, was forced to withstand efforts to overturn the election that targeted and threatened her and her family.
Aquilino Gonell served as a Capitol Police Sergeant and defended the Capitol on January 6th, suffering injuries during the attack. Sergeant Gonell is an emigrant from the Dominican Republic and a U.S. Army veteran who served in Iraq.
Eugene Goodman is a Capitol Police Officer who defended the Capitol on January 6th. He is credited with diverting rioters from the floor of the Senate while members were still evacuating. Officer Goodman is a U.S. Army veteran and, from January 20, 2021, to March 2, 2021, served as Acting Deputy Sergeant at Arms of the U.S. Senate.
Daniel Hodges is a Metropolitan Police Department Officer who defended the Capitol on January 6th, suffering injuries during the attack. The day of the attack was Hodges’s first time ever in the Capitol. Officer Hodges has served in the Metropolitan Police Department for over seven years.
Shaye Moss served as an election worker in Fulton County, Georgia, during the 2020 election. Like her mother, Ruby Freeman – who was also a Fulton County election worker and will also receive the Presidential Citizen Medal – Ms. Moss was subjected to threats and harassment in the wake of the election. Ms. Moss received the 2022 John . F Profile in Courage award.
Al Schmidt is a former federal civil servant and served as a city commissioner on the Philadelphia County Board of Elections. During the 2020 election, he kept the vote tally going in the face of pressure and efforts to overturn the election.