Sen. Bill Nelson honors Volusia sheriff’s deputy, Vietnam veteran for bravery
DELAND — Between the business of the U.S. Senate and running one of the nation’s most watched campaigns, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson was more than happy to spend an hour at DeLand City Hall honoring two of Volusia County’s heroes Wednesday.
“Everybody needs a pat on the back every now and then, particularly for the service beyond self,” Nelson said after awarding medals to a Volusia County sheriff’s deputy and a Vietnam veteran from DeLand who each faced lethal attacks with valor.
It was more than two years ago, now, that Volusia County sheriff’s deputy Justin Ferrari got a call — a domestic disturbance where a 26-year-old mother of three said she had been held against her will by her husband — that has continued reverberating in ways he never could have imagined.
When he arrived at a Deltona home, Ferrari heard shots fired, then the mother’s cries and the suspect yelling he was going to kill her.
Without hesitation, Ferrari “sprang into action,” Sheriff Mike Chitwood said. A gunfight ensued between the husband and deputies. Ferrari left his cover, rushing into the home and ushered out the mother and children. The husband later gave up and was arrested.
Later, Ferrari was recognized by Chitwood. Then last year he was honored as Florida Sheriffs Association Law Enforcement Officer of the Year. And on Wednesday, he earned a federal honor, the Law Enforcement Congressional Badge of Bravery.
Karin Hoppmann, first assistant U.S. attorney in Tampa, also attended to recognize Ferrari’s sacrifices, as did representatives from Sen. Marco Rubio’s office and the 6th Congressional District Office in DeLand.
“This is the highest honor or award of bravery that our entire country can present,” Hoppmann said. “Every man and woman who serves in law enforcement does so because they feel a calling that is higher than self. It is a calling to our brothers and sisters. It is a calling to the entire community.”
Chitwood said in his 32-year law-enforcement community he’s seen much outstanding police work. “But in Deputy Ferrari’s case, this is probably the top job that I’ve ever seen,” he said.
Nelson placed the Law Enforcement Congressional Badge of Bravery around Ferrari’s neck.
“His willingness to protect the lives of others without regard to his own personal safety is something extraordinary,” Nelson said, “and we need to recognize it.”
Nelson — a Democrat who’s running to keep his Senate seat against Republican Gov. Rick Scott — also presented a Bronze Star and Purple Heart to Master Sgt. William Holder of the U.S. Air Force, who was injured during a tour of duty in Vietnam in 1964.
Holder was a forward air controller who was in Vietnam in August 1964 while Americans’ involvement there was considered as an advisory role. His leg was seriously injured when he was attacked while entering a village “to get food.”
He had been awarded more than a handful of medals during his 23-year military career but lost them after his wife died and he had given away the wrong boxes. His family helped him contact Nelson’s office to get the medals replaced.
“It’s nice the senator would do this for me,” said Holder, whose eyes welled a bit Wednesday.