A detective with the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office Major Crimes Unit nominated five members of the Prosecutor’s Office for the “My Boss is a Patriot Award,” and they were presented with the award during a ceremony Friday morning, Nov. 16, the Prosecutor’s Office announced Friday afternoon.
Acting Prosecutor Jim McClain, Chief Daren Dooley, Captain Leslie Folks, Lieutenant Eladio Ortiz and Sergeant Dave Weiss received the award from representatives of the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR).
“We are very humbled to be receiving these awards, because Dave and those employees like him are the ones who make the sacrifices and put themselves at risk,” McClain said. “We are honored to serve with such people and are eager to do what we can to make their military service as light a burden as possible.”
They were nominated by David Gazzara, who serves as a sergeant with the Delaware Air National Guard 166th Wing. He’s been a member of the guard for the last seven years, according to the Prosecutor’s Office. He specializes in bomb disposal missions with the Air Force, and has been doing bomb disposal work for over 21 years, according to the Prosecutor’s Office. He began in 1991 as a member of the Army.
Gazzara is a member of the Atlantic City Bomb Squad and has been with the Prosecutor’s Office for the last 10 years. During that time, he was deployed to Afghanistan twice, according to the Prosecutor’s Office.
The Patriot Award is given to honor employers and leaders who exemplify a corporate culture that values the military service and sacrifice of their employees, the Prosecutor’s Office said. Recipients are honored for their role in supporting Guard and Reserve employees as they balance their roles in their family lives, civilian jobs and military service, according to the Prosecutor’s Office.
During his deployments, Weiss and Ortiz organized members of the Prosecutor’s Office to put together care packages for donation to Gazzara’s bomb disposal team in Afghanistan, Gazzara said.
“They sent us food and other fun stuff from home that made the time away easier,” Gazzara said. “My team members really enjoyed that.”
Gazzara said his chain of command helped him stay up to date on his day-to-day cases, which made it easier for him once he returned to work. He also said his co-workers helped support his family during his deployments. When Gazzara was deployed during Hurricane Irene, he said members of the Prosecutor’s Office checked in with his family to ensure they were safe.
“While I was deployed during Christmas, Sergeant Dave Weiss and Detective CJ Durham purchased and gave presents to my son and wife,” Gazzara said. “They made sure my family had someone to check on them when I could not be there.”
During his deployment to Afghanistan in February of this year, Gazzara earned the Bronze Star, the fourth-highest combat decoration in the U.S. military, for his efforts in disarming a vehicle bomb inside a compound, which had reportedly been occupied by 100 Taliban members, according to the Prosecutor’s Office.