The Tunnel to Towers Foundation attended the FOX Nation fifth annual Patriot Awards on November 16, 2023. For the first time, the Patriot Awards were hosted at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee, a historic and legendary country music venue. Hosted by FOX & Friends Weekend co-host and veteran Pete Hegseth, the Patriot Awards honored America’s everyday heroes, including military veterans, first responders and inspirational figures who have contributed to their communities, with awards such as Most Valuable Patriot Award, Back the Blue Award, Young Patriot Award, and many more.

This year, the Tunnel to Towers Foundation debuted a new award, the T2T Stephen Siller Patriot Award, named in honor of FDNY Firefighter Stephen Siller, who sacrificed his life on 9/11 while saving others. The inaugural award was presented to recipients who embody the spirit of Stephen Siller and who have demonstrated exemplary service to their communities and country.

At the awards ceremony, the T2T Stephen Siller Patriot Award was presented to the five police officers who responded to the Covenant School shooting on March 27, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee: Sergeant Jeff Mathes, Detectives Zarchary Plese, Ryan Cagle, Michael Collazo, and Rex Engelbert of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department.

Detective Michael Collazo is a lifelong resident of Nashville, Tennessee and has served with the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department for nine years. Prior to his law enforcement career, Collazo served with the Marine Corps for six years, having achieved the rank of sergeant and was awarded a Global War on Terroism Service medal among other accolades. 

Detective Sergeant Jeff Mathes graduated from Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, and began his career in law enforcement in 2012. Mathes recalls that when responding to the active shooter situation, there was no decision to be made regarding whether or not to enter the school; he had taken an oath to protect his community and he did just that. 

Detective Ryan Cagle responded to the active shooter situation at Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee alongside the four other award recipients on March 27, 2023. 

Detective Zachary Plese has served with the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department for over five years. Prior to his career in law enforcement, Plese graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Law Enforcement and Justice Administration from Western Illinois University. 

Detective Rex Engelbert is a Chicago native, and has served with the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department for four years. Prior to joining the department, Engelbert graduated from Loyola Academy in 2014, and from the University of Dayton in 2018 with a degree in criminal justice. Of the active shooter situation, Engelbert stated that while he had responded to many false active aggression calls at schools before, he could tell that the call that came in on March 27, 2023 was very different, and Engelbert was the first to arrive on scene.

An encore presentation of the fifth annual FOX Nation Patriot awards will air on FOX News Channel (FNC) on November 23rd at 8 PM/ET.