NBC4’s The Challenge Salutes Local Heroes

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Tune in to The Challenge hosted by NBC4 Sports Anchor Fred Roggin right after Sunday Night Football on NBC4, an interactive show that covers local sports and gives viewers a chance to win prizes every week.

For the first time in 2014, The Challenge will feature a local “Hero of the Night” each week to salute the men and women in the Southland who serve and protect us.

On September 7, we honored Captain Wendell L. Eaton from the Pasadena Fire Department. Captain Eaton began his career with the department in 1992, volunteering as an auxiliary firefighter and later as a full-time Firefighter Paramedic. He was promoted to Fire Captain in 2005, and spent the majority of his career at Fire Station 36. He was assigned as Fire/Arson Investigator in 2011 where he remains today. Captain Eaton has won many awards including 2014 Pasadena Fire Department Employee of the Year.

On September 14, The Challenge saluted Specialist Kevin Palomera who recently returned home from deployment for almost a year in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he served as a human resources specialist in support of Joint Task Force Headquarters. Palomera is a native of Huntington Park, Calif. and serves as a Citizen Soldier in the California National Guard 40th Infantry Division.  While deployed to Guantanamo Bay he was awarded two Joint Service Achievement Medals.

On September 21, The Challenge honored Officer Kenney Aguilar from the Santa Ana Police Department. Officer Aguilar was born and raised in Santa Ana, CA and graduated from Chapman University and the Orange County Sheriff’s Academy Class 173. He's been wit the department for eight years. He is the director of the Santa Ana Police Athletic & Activity League, a community program run by SAPD to reducing gang violence and gang membership.

On September 28, Officer Christopher Emon and K9 Sarko from the San Bernardino Police Department was The Challenge Hero of the Night. Officer Emon was born and raised in Southern and started with the San Bernardino Police Department in 2003, graduating from the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Academy, in 2004. Emon has been assigned to patrol, as a a field training officer, and most recently as a K9 officer with K9 partner Sarko.

Officer Maribel Feeley of the Glendale Police Department was honored on The Challenge on October 5.  She has been with the Glendale Police Department since 1993, working several details including gang enforcement, robbery/homicide, and vice/narcotics detail, where she conducted numerous undercover operations, surveillance and high-risk search warrants for known drug dealers. During her tenure, she was also a member of the SWAT team and later selected as a K-9 handler, where she was introduced to her first K-9 partner, "Yudy."  In 2014, Yudy retired to live at home with Ofc. Feeley, and K9 "Jager" joined, a two-year-old male German Shepherd. Both Offc Feeley and Jager are certified to find and apprehend fleeing or hidden suspects, and are on their way to learning narcotics detection so Jager can learn how to sniff out illegal drugs.

Captain Matthew W. Weaver with the United States Air Force serves as Chief, Global Positioning System Information Assurance, Space & Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles AFB.  He leads 32 engineers who ensure information security, availability, confidentiality and integrity for the $32 billion dollar Global Positioning System satellite constellation.  Captain Weaver was born in Detroit, Michigan and entered the Air Force in 2005 as a graduate of the University of Michigan, gaining his commission the same year through the ROTC program.  Captain Weaver is currently studying at USC working to earn a doctorate in education.  He is married and the father of 2 year old Ava. 

Corona Police Officer Jason Waldon has been with the Corona Police Department for 15 years and promoted to the rank of Corporal five years ago. He has been on the Flex Team and Gang Task Force, and in addition to his patrol duties, he is a Rangemaster, member of the SWAT Team and Honor Guard.

He also volunteers his time to the Annual Banquet Awards Committee for the department. Corporal Waldon has been the recipient of several awards including Unit Citations, Chief’s Award of Excellence, CHP Auto Theft award, Medal of Valor, and the prestigious California Association of Tactical Officers SWAT Officer of the Year. Corporal Waldon has also been involved in community fundraising efforts for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.

Sgt. Nicole Narvaez is originally from Moreno Valley, California and joined the Army National Guard in December 2006 as a 92Y Supply Specialist. She attended Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and was deployed to Afghanistan in 2011 with the 578th Engineer Battalion as the Supply Specialist for the Forward Support Company.

Sgt. Narvaez currently works for the 40th Infantry Division as the Supply NCO for the Headquarters Support Company located at the Joint Forces Training Base in Los Alamitos. She is also working on completing a degree in liberal studies.

Officer Walter Ashby from the Arcadia Police department began his career in 2006, and was awarded the Medal of Merit in 2013 for his involvement and support of the Special Olympics.

Officer Ashby’s commitment to the community does not stop when he’s off duty. On October 11, 2014, he was off duty attending a birthday party when he heard a scream and noticed a woman standing at the edge of the pool screaming - a child was face down floating in shallow water.

Without hesitation, Officer Ashby quickly dove into the pool and raised the child above water; she appeared lifeless and pale with dark blue lips.  He attempted to clear her airway of any obstruction and when it did not work, he pulled her out of the water and called for someone to dial 9-1-1.

Officer Ashby began giving CPR and after several cycles, the child vomited and her eye lids fluttered. He continued CPR since she was still nonresponsive, and she eventually took a deep breath, the color returned to her face and she began to breathe on her own. Everyone is happy to report that she is healthy and happy today thanks to Officer Ashby's heroic efforts.

Detective Leticia Hernandez has been a sworn officer with the Irvine Police Department for more than eight years. She is currently assigned to the Detective Bureau investigating property crimes. She has been a crisis negotiator for more than five years and is a member of the department’s Peer Support Team. Detective Hernandez is a certified Spanish translator and provides Spanish media and public information support as well. She is happily married with two children.

Capt. Katherine I. Portillo is the Operational Engineering Lead at the Space Superiority Directorate, Los Angeles Air Force Base. She leads a contractor team enabling Battle Management Command, Control and Communications to protect and defend our national Space systems. She is also the Functional Area Evaluator for the Directorate’s $50M System Engineering Technical Advisory contract that provides advisory and assistance support services to 14 programs.

Capt Portillo enlisted in the Air Force as a supply journeyman in 1996, and supported the 42nd Air Base Wing and 908th Reserve Wing at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama. She was later assigned to the 3rd Space Operations Squadron at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado, where she executed duties as a satellite systems operator, satellite vehicle operator, squadron executive officer and chief of the Defense Satellite Control System orbital analysis section.

Capt Portillo was then assigned to Vandenberg AFB in California, where she served as a satellite operations instructor, section chief and flight commander for the 533d Training Squadron and 381st Training Group.

With the anniversary of Pearl Harbor on December 7, we salute a veteran who survived the attack -- Howard Bender.  Bender served in the U.S. Navy aboard the USS Maryland on December 7, 1941, and continued to serve until February 1949.  He has several decorations and awards to his name, including Navy Commendation Medal, Good Conduct Medal, WW II Victory Medal and the Pearl Harbor Congressional Commemorative Medial, just to name a few.

Born and raised in Southern California, Long Beach Firefighter Will Nash grew up in the city of Downey. He attended college at Cal State Poly Pomona, where he earned a management degree. After several years, Will opted for a career in fire service. While in the testing process, Long Beach Fire Department became a strong possibility so he began volunteering with both the LBFD Fire Museum and LBFD Toy Drive. Hard work and dedication paid off when Will achieved his goal of becoming a LBFD firefighter in 2002. Will has worked at different stations throughout the city, and has held many roles, including Public Information Officer, Community Services Representative, CERT Coordinator, youth mentor, and Toy Drive Coordinator. He enjoys being involved with the community, doing charity work, teaching, and being a positive role model for kids.

Ventura Police Officers Bryan Palmer and Ed McCain are true heroes in every sense of the word. On a cold night in late October, Palmer saw a traffic collision. The vehicle had been speeding  northbound on Highway 101 when it exited the highway. The driver failed to stop at an intersection, ran a red light and then flipped his vehicle upside-down as it sped through the intersection. There was a street crew working at the intersection and the vehicle collided into one of the crew’s unoccupied parked utility trucks. The force of that impact caused the utility truck to move several feet, and strike a large high-voltage Edison pole, which was then sheared in half. The pole, in addition to the live electrical wires, fell onto the driver’s vehicle, trapping the driver inside.

As Palmer arrived on scene, he heard the driver calling for help from inside the overturned vehicle. The driver was hanging upside down inside the vehicle, which was starting to catch on fire and was full of smoke. Palmer requested additional units and McCain arrived a short time later. Both officers immediately went to the aid of the driver, reaching inside the vehicle and freeing him from the wreckage. Shortly after pulling him away from the vehicle, both his vehicle and the utility truck became completely engulfed in flames.

The fine men from the County of Los Angeles Fire Station 170 in Inglewood came by for the season finale. Each year the department hosts a Christmas Eve dinner for homeless individuals in the community. All the meals are provided, served and paid for by Inglewood firefighters and their families. Our Heroes of the Night were led by Captain Eugene Ramirez. Joining him were Engineers Mike Chavarrie and Adam Spik along with Firefighters Nick Ling, Zac Balderrama and Joey Marron.

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