Packed with law enforcement officers, the conference room at the Forsyth County Sheriff's Office may have seemed a little intimidating Wednesday.
But the handshakes, playful jabs and pats on the back made it clear they were there to celebrate and honor those who had shown exemplary work.
Some recipients brought their families, but all of them were surrounded by friends.
Sheriff Ted Paxton presented medals of valor, medals of merit and two purple hearts to 23 deputies, investigators and supervisors.
There was one commendation bar and Kevin Mitchell was named 2007 deputy of the year for the department's south precinct.
"I want to express my appreciation not only to everyone here but to everyone working out there every day," Paxton told the crowd. "Each and every one of you never hesitates to meet a challenge."
Paxton explained the criteria for each award.
The medal of merit is given for a variety of reasons. Among them are showing unusual thoroughness and initiative, efforts that go beyond what is required to complete an assignment and retirement after 25 years of service to the office.
Those who have received the employee or deputy of the year award also are eligible. The merit medal is the office's third highest award.
Medals of valor were given to those who through exceptional courage or bravery prevented a serious crime or caught a suspect in a serious crime.
The award also is given for saving the life of a resident or employee. It is the second highest honor given by the sheriff's office.
Purple hearts, given in addition to medals of valor, are awarded to those injured directly by a suspect or as the result of a suspect's offensive actions.
Capt. Ron Freeman, commander of the south precinct, said Mitchell was nominated three times by his peers in 2007 for deputy of the month and earned the monthly award twice.
Freeman said Mitchell was chosen for the yearly honor in part due to his "experience, drive, professionalism and activity level."
Mitchell also received a medal of merit.
In May, the north precinct named Rodney Pirkle its deputy of the year.