He was training as a paramedic; she was working in an ambulance.
They struck up a conversation. A year later, Eric and Whitney Valles married.
Both have stressful jobs. She works at American Medical Response and her husband is a Gulfport firefighter.
Whitney asked for Friday off. She wanted to accompany her husband when he received the Firefighter of the Year award at the annual Gulfport Chamber of Commerce breakfast at the Isle of Capri Casino Resort. She was planning to wear a new dress.
Bobby Marshall, clinical education manager at AMR, had to spoil the surprise so she would wear her uniform instead.
It so happened she was being named Paramedic of the Year.
It was, said Marshall and Fire Chief Mike Beyerstedt, a happy coincidence.
This past year, Whitney revived three patients who were clinically dead; all three survived. Whitney is a field training officer for AMR and is certified by the American Heart Association to teach advanced life support classes.
Eric, an engineer with the Fire Department, has helped train firefighters in Gulfport and other departments. This past year, he was the lead instructor for an accelerated EMT program. His abilities showed in the results, with 100 percent of recruits passing a test that usually has a 20 percent failure rate.
The Valleses do wind up talking about their experiences at work when they are off. Eric Valles said, “It’s really good to have somebody in the same field that understands.”
The Police Officer of the Year award went to Detective Kevin Beech, whose investigations in 15 cases resulted in removing large amounts of drugs from the streets.
Terrance L. Pringle was named Sailor of the Year for the Naval Construction Battalion Center in Gulfport.
The Christmas party he organized as president of a first-class petty officer association was a major success, as were the carnival rides he helped set up for Seabee Day.
Pringle’s nomination described him as exhibiting “exceptional professionalism, unrelenting perseverance and loyal devotion to duty.”