Inslee greenlights Medal of Valor for Oso communities
Gov. Inslee signs Medal of Valor legislation as state officials and OSOS staffers stand by. (Photo courtesy of Legislative Photo Department)
One year ago, on the morning of March 22, a massive landslide east of Oso in Snohomish County devastated the landscape and claimed 43 lives. First-responders and regular citizens from Oso, Darrington, and Arlington and the Sauk-Suiattle Tribe sprung into action.
A grateful state will pay tribute to those three communities and the tribe “in honor of outstanding acts of valor, risk of injury and death, and personal sacrifice in assisting in rescue, recovery and relief efforts. … Volunteers worked tirelessly and selflessly to help friends and neighbors in their hour of peril and helped their communities come together and heal.”
This is the language on the Medal of Valor that will be conferred at a joint session of the Legislature at 11 a.m. on March 18. Gov. Jay Inslee cleared the way for the honor by signing legislation Monday to expand eligibility to communities. Previously, only individuals (those not employed as first-responders/law enforcement) could receive the award (shown below).
The measure, SB 5035, was sponsored by Sen. Kirk Pearson, R-Monroe. He and House Republican Leader Dan Kristiansen, Snohomish, and Rep. Elizabeth Scott, R-Monroe, originally nominated the communities and tribe, prompting the need for legislation.
The governor told the signing-ceremony gathering Monday that the Medal will be a fitting tribute to those who gave so generously of themselves during “the heartbreak of Oso.” Pearson told reporters, “It’s great to honor those who have done so much. When the state honors, it shows we do care.”
The joint session also includes a posthumous Medal of Merit for the legendary tribal rights leader, Billy Frank Jr.
Frank’s commendation says “In honor of his work as a Nisqually tribal leader and his dedication to the plight of Northwest salmon, the environment, and peace among diverse cultures. Billy played a key role in the fight for treaty fishing rights, and was longtime chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission. He traveled the globe to help indigenous people save their cultures and environment. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.”
A second Medal of Merit will go to Gretchen Shodde for founding Harmony Hill Retreat Center near Union on Hood Canal. The center provides free retreats for individuals and families affected by a cancer diagnosis.
The medal program is staffed by the Office of Secretary of State.