Saugus High School JROTC cadet receives Gold Valor Award

Congressman Mike Garcia presents Matthew Harrison, an ROTC Cadet Technical Sergeant, with an award recognizing his actions during last November's shooting at Saugus High School on Monday morning in Central Park. August 31, 2020. Bobby Block / The Signal.

Cadet Technical Sgt. Matthew Harrison recently received the Air Force Junior ROTC’s highest honor, the Gold Valor Award. The award is given to recognize “the most outstanding voluntary acts of self-sacrifice and personal bravery by a cadet involving conspicuous risk of life above and beyond the call of duty,” according to the regulations put forth by Air Force Junior ROTC. 

Harrison is now a senior at Saugus High School. Harrison’s heroic actions during the Saugus High School shooting last November earned him the award. Harrison performed first aid on a wounded student, Mia Tretta, which contributed to saving her life. In attendance at the ceremony Monday at Central Park were Col. Christopher L. Bricker, USAF (retired), senior aerospace science instructor, who nominated Harrison for the award, Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Santa Clarita, and Vince Ferry, principal of Saugus High School.

Matthew Harrison, an ROTC Cadet Technical Sergeant, stands beside Mia Tretta, the Saugus High School student he administered first aid to during the shooting that took place on that campus last November, following an award ceremony recognizing his actions. August 31, 2020. Bobby Block / The Signal.

Proud principal

Ferry shared how proud he was of Harrison. 

“Matthew Harrison is an exceptional young man who was calm, confident, and courageous. He assisted our injured and comforted those who were with him,” said Ferry.

“Harrison is an extremely humble person. I know he does not seek attention, but I cannot think of another person more deserving of the Gold Valor Award than him. In speaking for the entire Saugus High School community, we are so very proud of Matthew, and we want to express our sincere thanks for his heroic actions.”

‘Gallantry’ praised

Garcia, a Saugus High graduate, had the honor of presenting Harrison with the award. 

“As we are all still healing from the tragic events on the campus of my alma mater Saugus High School that occurred on the 14th of November of last year, today we pay tribute to one of the amazing heroes who took valiant action to save a fellow student’s life,” Garcia said.

“Matthew Harrison distinguished himself with acts of gallantry and intrepidity above and well beyond the call of duty of a high school student,” said Garcia. “My heart breaks for all of the victims and their families. And for the students who effectively experienced the terror of combat in the sanctuary of their campus, we cannot let this happen again. But in this case, Harrison demonstrated the courage to act and, in doing so, saved a precious life. It is my honor and privilege to present the Gold Valor Award to Technical Sgt. Matthew Harrison.”

The full citation that will accompany the award:

“The Gold Valor Award is presented to cadet Technical Sgt. Matthew Harrison for his actions taken on the 14th of November 2019. On that day, Cadet Harrison heard gunshots and eventually found shelter in a classroom during a school shooting at Saugus High School. A severely wounded student staggered into the classroom immediately after he arrived. Cadet Harrison quickly retrieved a trauma kit in the classroom and applied direct pressure to a life-threatening gunshot wound. While applying pressure, he calmly called 911 and gave precise directions to the location of the victim. All this while the location of the gunman was unknown, and the other students were taking cover. Cadet Harrison applied direct pressure for approximately 15 minutes until first responders were able to reach them. Cadet Harrison’s quick thinking and administration of first aid helped save the student’s life. His selfless actions reflect credit upon himself and the Air Force Junior ROTC program.”

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