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'You can't live for yourselves alone' Brave Jamaicans awarded for helping others

Published:Tuesday | October 21, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Toni-Ann Miller steps proudly after receiving the Badge of Honour for Gallantry during yesterday's National Honours and Awards Ceremony.
Lance Corporal Octavia Brooks (left), of the Jamaica Defence Force, along with Jamaica Constabulary Force Woman Constable Sherene Bailey, and Corporal Everton Henry after each received the Medal of Honour for Gallantry at the National Honours and Awards Ceremony. Jermaine Barnaby/Photographer
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Jodi-Ann Gilpin, Gleaner Writer

Courageous acts of selflessness displayed by Jamaicans did not go unnoticed as the National Honours and Awards Ceremony was held on the lawns of King's House in St Andrew yesterday.

No award recipient was more warmly received than 11-year-old Toni-Ann Miller, who was greeted with loud cheers and applause when she was conferred with the Badge of Honour for Gallantry for displaying a stunning act of bravery when she rescued two brothers from a burning house last year.

In an article published in The Gleaner shortly after her award was announced in August, Miller outlined how she was on her way home from school with her friends on the afternoon of May 15, 2013, in Mount Hermon, St Catherine, when she noticed thick black smoke coming through the windows of a nearby house.

She and her friends also heard a child crying inside.

Without a moment's hesitation, and with no thought of her personal safety, Miller ran into the house and pulled the children to safety.

Miller, after receiving her award, told The Gleaner that yesterday's event would be etched in her memory forever.

"I am really proud of myself. I didn't expect to be recognised at this level and I am really grateful for the help I have been getting so far. The support has been great and I want to continue doing well," she declared.

In The Gleaner article published in August, the 11-year-old and her caregiver, Judean Cunningham, had revealed that they were experiencing severe financial constraints ahead of the new school year. Readers responded by providing financial assistance as well as books and other school supplies.

Yesterday Cunningham said participating in the honours and awards ceremony was a proud moment for her family.

BUBBLING WITH JOY

"I am so elated. She (Toni-Ann) has been through a lot and it's good to know that she has been recognised. I am bubbling with joy," Cunningham said.

She also noted that the Good Hope Primary School student has improved immensely in her academics following the assistance she received.

"The highlight she got has made so much difference because she is more confident, her school work has improved and she is doing extremely well. Her school items are taken care of, her lunch money and the overall support has been overwhelming," she declared.

Constable Sherene Bailey, of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), who received a Medal of Honour for Gallantry, shared how she saved her neighbour whom she discovered injured and left for dead in October 2012.

"On my way home, I heard several explosions in the community where I live. I stopped my vehicle and went to make enquiries and I realised that my neighbour had received gunshots. Thieves tried to break into his house and he was shot several times," she recalled.

"I couldn't't leave him hanging like that and, though it was very risky, I took a chance and today, for the first time, I am being recognised on this platform. It's a good feeling and I really enjoyed the day," Bailey told The Gleaner.

She added: "You can't live for yourselves alone, and even though we live in a country where the crime rate seems to be out of control, we can do our part to ensure that there is order and peace in the society. You never know when your day will come," she said.

Corporal Everton Henry of the JCF and Lance Corporal Octavia Brooks of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) were also honoured for their great courage and heroism.

Henry assisted a colleague who was attacked by a gunman last year while they were on patrol on Red Hills Road in St Andrew.

In January, Brooks pulled three women from the Rio Cobre along the Bog Walk Gorge, after their car was pushed off the road by another vehicle and fell into the river.

jodi-ann.gilpin@gleanerjm.com