Baron Braswell and Gwendolyn Martinez Honored by Congress

Baron Braswell and Gwendolyn Martinez accept the Suzanne McDaniel Memorial Award for their work preventing teen violence in Virginia on April 16, 2024.

Baron Braswell, a former member of the Spotsylvania School Board, and Gwendolyn Martinez—the parents of Baron “Deuce” Braswell II—have received a congressional award for their work to prevent teen violence in Virginia.

Rep. Abigail Spanberger presented Braswell and Martinez with the Suzanne McDaniel Memorial Award for Public Awareness on Capitol Hill yesterday.

“I have the honor of recognizing that this award will go to Baron Braswell and Gwendolyn Martinez for the work that they do to bring attention to the issue of teen violence in our communities,” Spanberger said during the ceremony.

Deuce Braswell, 16, a student-athlete at Courtland High School with goals of studying criminal justice or sports medicine, was murdered at a party in January of 2006.

To honor their son’s life, Braswell and Martinez established the annual Baron “Deuce” Braswell Run/Walk Against Teen Violence, an event that’s now in its 19th year.

Every September, as Spanberger described, community members gather to remember Deuce “in a beautiful, joyful, athletic event” and connect with resources that are available to support teen mental health and reduce and prevent teen violence.

Braswell and Martinez also offer four scholarships each year in their son’s memory to high school seniors from Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania, Stafford, Caroline, or King George who are seeking higher education.

Each year, [kids] from our region can go off to school and know that they are supported not just financially, but also in spirit,” Spanberger said.

Braswell told the Advance on Wednesday that he and Martinez were surprised and honored when they learned about the award.

“But Gwen and I never really were looking for any recognition,” he said.

Braswell said they also never expected the run to become a beloved annual event.

“It just seemed like it kept getting larger and larger,” he said. “We just keep focusing on doing the best that we can every year.”

The U.S. Congressional Crime Survivors and Justice Caucus presents the Suzanne McDaniel Memorial Award each year in recognition of “those who use their voice to promote and bring about change to advance rights, awareness, and services for crime victims,” according to a press release from Spanberger’s office.

The award is named for Suzanne McDaniel, one of the first prosecutor-based victim advocates in Texas and in the country. She created Harris County’s first community interagency council on sexual assault and family violence and the first rape exam protocol for Houston Hospital and Medical Associations. She also formed the Texas Crime Victim Clearinghouse, the first statewide resource in the nation, and helped draft and pass numerous bills supporting and advancing crime victims’ rights.

Managing Editor and Correspondent