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Congress proposing medal for rescue personnel

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. House and Senate members are introducing resolutions to award the Congressional Medal of Valor for firefighters, police officers and emergency service personnel killed or seriously wounded in the line of duty in the September 11 terrorist attacks.

The medal is the highest national award bestowed to public safety officers.

The office of Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, who is sponsoring the Senate version of the resolution, says that bill will recognize those involved in the search, rescue and recovery efforts at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

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Harkin's office says a separate measure will recognize those involved in the search and recovery efforts at the crash site in Pennsylvania.

"I've seen how medals awarded in combat can help tell a child the story of a lost parent or grandparent. These medals can say that these men and women gave their lives in service to their neighbors and to their nation -- and that this nation is a grateful one," Harkin said. "Today, we say on behalf of every American, thank you."

The efforts of the rescue and safety personnel helped save nearly 25,000 people before the twin towers of the World Trade Center collapsed, said Rep. Vito Fossella of New York.

Lawmakers in both the Senate and House are working on language differences between the two versions, said Rep. Joe Crowley of New York, who is introducing the House version.

The Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor Act was authorized by Congress in May and became effective on September 1, only 10 days before the terrorist attacks.

Specifically, it authorizes the U.S. Attorney General to name as many as five public safety officers to receive the honor in any given year. But the attorney general also has the discretion in "extraordinary cases" to increase the number of recipients.


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