Saluting the best

Once a year, American Legion post commanders gather for the annual legion convention held at a local American Legion post. At each convention, four awards are given – firefighter, EMT, police officer and Boy Scout of the Year.

The American Legion Post 62 in Dunkirk held the annual convention with Chautauqua County Commander John Miga helping to present the four annual awards. John Bentley, Lakewood Busti police chief, won the award for Police Officer of the Year. Bentley previously attended SUNY Fredonia and JCC and has worked for the Lakewood and Mayville Police departments. He has done work for the county bomb squad and the Southern Tier Regional Drug Task Force.

“Thank you very much. It’s such a great honor,” Bentley said after receiving his award.

Steve Bourgeois of the Portland Fire Department was awarded Firefighter of the Year. Bourgeois is a third-generation firefighter and has been a firefighter since the 1980s. He is an assistant chief with Portland Fire Department and is the training officer. A nomination letter from Beth Jagoda, secretary for the department, said Bourgeois is “willing and ready to respond when the tones go off.” Bourgeois said the award was a “high honor.”

“Thank you very much. It means a lot,” Bourgeois said. “… My father told me to take great pride in everything.”

The EMT of the year was awarded to Dave Hazelton of the Brocton Fire Department. He has been a lifelong member of the Brocton-Portland community and currently serves on the Brocton Village Board as mayor. He has been a firefighter for 40 years and been an EMT for 30 years. A nomination letter written by Brian Woleben, Brocton Fire Chief, said on average the department receives 340 calls per year and Hazelton responds to about 320 of those calls. Hazelton said it was with “mixed feelings” to receive the award.

“Everything we do is accounted as a team, not just one person,” he said.

The Boy Scout of the Year was Andrew Field of Fredonia. He received a $100 savings bond and will receive a plaque at a ceremony during the annual jamboree.

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