By Kevin O’Rourke
Wednesday night, Montgomery County Police Officer Jonathan Pruziner of District Five in Germantown received the 2014 Capital Area Chapter of the Theodore Roosevelt Association's Theodore Roosevelt Police Award. The award was handed out at ceremony held Wednesday, Feb. 4 in Washington D.C.
The Theodore Roosevelt Police Awards honor those police personnel who experience serious injuries or illnesses but continue to render praiseworthy service to police departments.
In 2007, Pruziner was serving as a Specialist with the U.S. Army Second Cavalry in Iraq when he came in contact with an improvised explosive device.
It was on September 11, 2007 Pruziner followed his squad leader out the door of an abandoned house near Baghdad, Iraq, where he and his Second Cavalry Eagle Troop had been pinned down and surrounded during a day-long gun battle against insurgents, according to the Roosevelt Award program.
Pruziner and his unit planned a break-out move to connect with troops in a house across the street. He took a few steps and somehow triggered an improvised explosive device the insurgents had planted near the door.
He was blown through the air. His leg was severed at the boot. The explosion ripped open his left arm and one of its arteries, ruptured his intestines, and shattered his ear drums and ear bones.
After trauma surgery in Iraq and Germany, Pruziner was at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. D.C. to begin lengthy, extensive, and physically and emotionally punishing rehabilitation. In his early days, the 20-year-old Pruziner thought he would spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair. But his resilience and determination prevailed and after begin fitted with a prosthetic limb — two years later, Pruziner, ran the Army Ten-Miler. He didn’t just finish, he ran it at an eight-and-a-half minute per-mile pace.
“There were two things I wanted to be as a kid, a soldier and a cop,” said Pruzinger, who grew up in Commack, New York. After being medically discharged from the Army, and with the encouragement of friends he enrolled in the Montgomery County Police Academy. In January 2013 he joined the Montgomery County Police Department.
“He shows other people that you can get beyond your limitations,” said District Five Commander David Gillespie. “I don’t think he looks at himself as begin limited.” In his two years on patrol, Pruziner has performed flawlessly and without concession to his prosthesis. “He has to put extra thought and effort into all he does, to protect himself and others, knowing it will take a little extra every day,” said Gillespie.
Pruziner knows that he has to approach his job differently than his fellow officers. “It takes planning and preparation before I do anything,” he said. “I have to keep myself in shape and pay attention to my prosthesis. If I think a part will fail I have to get it fixed right away.”
“It doesn’t help anybody to have self-pity, fear, or panic. I realized I just had to move past my injury,” said Pruziner, who lives with his wife in Damascus.
In 1983 the Theodore Roosevelt Association established the Theodore Roosevelt Police Awards in New York City to honor Roosevelt’s distinguished service as president of the Board of Police Commissioners of New York City from 1895 to 1897, and in recognition of his enduring admiration for the police. He rose to that post — and a life of public service — after overcoming debilitating illness in his youth.
Since the award’s inception, more than 150 officers from 13 communities have been honored. Officer Prunizer is the third member of the Montgomery County Police Department to receive the award. In 2004 Detective Kyle Olinger was honored and in 2008 Officer Dale Anonsen received the award.