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Contact: Niki Stephanie Nicholas, 423-569-9778
Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell awarded National Park Service Rangers Thomas A. Hall, Brett F. Painter, and Matt L. Hudson the Valor Award for their commitment and dedication to carrying out the mission of the National Park Service. The three Obed Wild and Scenic River Rangers were recognized at the Department of Interior's 70th Honor Awards Convocation ceremony on May 7, 2015, in Washington DC. The Valor Award, established in 1957, recognizes an employee's demonstration of unusual courage involving a high degree of personal risk in the face of danger. The heroic act or rescue performed does not have to be related to the nominee's official duties, nor occur at their official duty station.
The award was bestowed for an incident that started around midnight on May 11, 2014. Rangers Matthew Hudson, Thomas Hall, and Brett Painter paddled a hazardous and challenging whitewater section of the Big South Fork River to rescue a 21-year-old male stranded mid-river without a life jacket. By headlamp and moonlight, the three rangers negotiated numerous Class II and III rapids and then plucked the victim from a small rock on the brink of a potentially lethal Class IV rapid known as Double Falls. Without the efforts of Hudson, Painter, and Hall, there was a significant likelihood that the victim would have either succumbed to hypothermia or attempted to swim from the rock. In either case, he would have been washed downstream through all three Class IV rapids in succession, with only a small chance of surviving such a swim.
"This award recognizes exemplary employees who go above and beyond the call of duty to carry out the mission of the National Park Service," said Niki Stephanie Nicholas, park superintendent. "Matt, Brett and Thomas are an inspiration to us all and we are very proud to work with them."Matthew L. Hudson is a native of Cookeville, Tennessee, and has been a National Park Ranger for 12 years. He and his wife, Julie Hudson, have a daughter and son and live in Morgan County, Tennessee. Brett Painter is a former Barren County, Kentucky, resident and native of Monmouth, Illinois, and has been a National Park Ranger for 17 years. He and his wife, Moria Painter, have two daughters and have a home in Morgan County, Tennessee. Thomas Hall is a native of Whitley County, Kentucky, and has been a National Park Ranger for five years. He and his wife, Chance Hall, are expecting their first child later this year and they live in Morgan County, Tennessee.