The McLean Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8241 will honor the local Firefighter of the Year and Policeman of the Year on March 26 before the recipients go on to receive top honors in the state. The VFW, which recognizes outstanding police and firefighting personnel each year, will highlight the achievements of firefighter Robert Sollenberger and police Pfc. Eric Becker.
“We do this as a community service. Last year, and this year, both[local honorees] went on to win state recognition,” said VFW manager Ned Clark.
Becker, who is currently assigned to the Fair Oaks District station, was nominated by McLean Police Station Capt. Steve Smylie for his actions last fall.
On Oct. 6, 2003, a vehicle was stolen from a convenience store parking lot. The car had been left running with a 4- year-old child in the back seat. Becker was assigned to an area near Interstate 66 and positioned himself to observe traffic coming from the direction the car was last reported traveling.
Smylie’s recommendation reads, “After about 45 minutes Pfc. Becker spotted the vehicle in heavy rush-hour traffic. He maneuvered into a position to follow and observe the vehicle, but wisely waited for other officers and the police helicopter to join him before attempting to stop it. Pfc. Becker coordinated the stop by radio, and it was executed safely and efficiently.”
The suspect was taken into custody, and the child was unharmed in the incident.
Capt. Dennis Wilson at the Fair Oaks station said, “He’s an exceptional officer. There have been several instances where he’s been meticulous in his dusting of fingerprints and the quality has led to arrests. He is very committed to his job.”
Fairfax County public information officer Maryann Jennings said, “He went above and beyond. He certainly deserves this.”
Smylie stated, “It is clear that Pfc. Becker is an action-oriented officer who is always on the watch for developing problems. It should be no surprise that on Oct. 6, 2003, he was the difference that changed a potential tragedy to a happy ending.”
FIREFIGHTER SOLLENBERGER was nominated by volunteer fire chief Clyde Clark from the McLean Volunteer Fire Department for his record of service to the community.
Sollenberger’s “contribution to the citizens of McLean simply cannot be overstated. His willingness to assist others and his enthusiasm for fire and rescue work are readily apparent. The citizens of McLean are indeed fortunate to have Firefighter Sollenberger as a primary caregiver,” stated Clark in his nomination letter.
Sollenberger joined the volunteer department in December 2001. In less than two years as a member of the department, he successfully completed the following training: EMT-Basic, Firefighter I/II, Swift Water Rescue Technician, and Operational Level of Hazardous Materials Certification.
Sollenberger is a certified emergency-vehicle operator and certified child passenger car seat safety technician, and he serves as a commonwealth of Virginia EMT basic evaluator.
He is also taking courses to become a certified paramedic.
According to Clark, Sollenberger put in more than 4,300 hours of active participation at the station and answered in excess of 800 calls for emergency assistance while undergoing his additional training. He also personally inspected more than 100 child car seats for proper installation in that time.
“We’re honoring these guys for what they do every day. We are going to have a nice dinner for them and show our appreciation for the work they put in. Then they will go on to state and get their honors there,” said Ned Clark.