FAIRMONT - While the dangers of police work were made abundantly clear to citizens last week when an officer was shot on duty in Fairmont, another Fairmont officer was preparing to receive an award honoring his dedication for when he was wounded in the line of duty in 2002.
Lieutenant Del Ellis was awarded a National Law Enforcement and Fire Citation from the Military Order of the Purple Heart on Saturday.
While the Purple Heart is reserved for military personnel killed or wounded while serving, the organization believes police and firefighters are kindred spirits and seeks to honor some of those who were killed or hurt while protecting others.
Ellis was honored with six other Minnesotans at the Military Order of the Purple Heart fall conference Saturday in Coon Rapids.
Fairmont police officers contacted by the Sentinel said Ellis had kept quiet about the honor.
Ellis was wounded Feb. 2, 2002, after stopping Nicholas Donnelly for a traffic violation.
"It's a recognition of people that have made sacrifices for the community, and by extension, the country," said Minnesota MOPH Commander Wally Lind. He said this year's recipients include officers who were wounded years ago but had yet to receive the honor.
To be eligible for the citation, an officer must be a first responder who lost his or her life in the line of duty, or was wounded and required medical treatment. Officers who receive minor injuries do not qualify.
The mission of the Military Order of the Purple Heart is to foster an environment of goodwill and camaraderie among combat wounded veterans, promote patriotism, support necessary legislative initiatives, and most importantly, provide service to all veterans and their families.
Six other officers receiving the award are: Officer David Longbehn of the St Paul Police Department, wounded on May 1, 2010 (during the same incident where Sergeant Bergeron of Maplewood PD was killed); Sergeant Omar Maklad of the Woodbury Police Department, wounded on April 15, 2010; Deputy Sheriff Timothy Samuelson of the Dakota County Sheriff Department, wounded on May 2, 2010; Captain Dennis Mack and Firefighter Jacob LaFerriere of Minneapolis Firehouse 11, both wounded on July 3, 2010; and Officer Mike Blood of the Edina Police Department, severely wounded in a bank robbery in Edina on Nov. 16, 2000.
Ellis was unavailable for comment at press time.