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The three men were there for different reasons - recovering thousands of dollars of stolen cash, battling cancer and wildfires, or treating suspects with fraternal dignity - but none could pinpoint a specific moment that made them outstanding.
What makes Officer Sheldon Schnese, Lt. Dave Vitwar and Sgt. Shane Mitchell outstanding first responders might be years of adventures and trials in their service to the Colorado Springs police and fire departments, and the El Paso County Sheriff's Office. All three were surprised to be recognized at the 18th annual honoring of first responders by The Hundred Club of Colorado Springs on Wednesday night.
The club's mission is to provide financial assistance to the families of first responders in Colorado Springs, El Paso County and that state who have died in the line of duty, and to recognize outstanding public safety service.
"I was shocked when they called," said Schnese, a police department veteran of 38 1/2 years.
A few weeks ago, Schnese, part of the department's motorcycle unit, helped arrest David Anderson, after he allegedly went on a robbery spree and dumped thousands in cash near the Antlers Hilton hotel.
"I jumped off my bike and grabbed almost $7,000 that was laying there," he said.
Wednesday's event also honored Officer Matt Tyner, a motorcyle officer and former colleague of Schnese's who died in an on-duty crash this summer.
Vitwar recalled that seven years ago all his front teeth were knocked out in a training exercise with the fire department, which he has been with for nearly 20 years. Then, three years ago, he was diagnosed with melanoma that metastasized, he said.
"I've gone through a lot of adversity in the past six years," he said, matter of factly.
He led a team of firefighters during the horrific firefight in Mountain Shadows on June 26. He also fought other western wildfires during the summer.
Sgt. Shane Mitchell figured he'd been offered the award because of his attitude.
He considered his 14 years with the Sheriff's Office - and saw a common thread in how he handles victims or crime suspects.
"I treat them each and every time with the same dignity, and conduct it as if (a victim) were my own mother," he said.
He had a revelatory moment in 2007, when his sister was killed in an accident, he said. Mitchell suddenly found himself on the other side of the equation - he was the victim, and he was humiliated by the attitude of the responding law enforcement officer. It's not enough to wear the badge, he said, and it's a duty that shouldn't be taken lightly.
"A lot of guys strap the badge on, strap the belt on, and get in the cool car and think they've made it," he said.