By Cortney Roark, Knoxville News Sentinel —
MARYVILLE — East Tennessee law enforcement officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians gathered for barbecue, drinks and live music Friday at Vanquish Worldwide’s “Honoring Our Heroes” event.
Vanquish, a company that specializes in security and transportation services, invited officers from more than 200 police, fire and emergency medical agencies in Blount, Campbell, Grainger, Jefferson, Knox, Loudon, Morgan, Anderson, Sevier and Roane counties, according to Eric Barton, president of Vanquish. He said the goal of the event was simple — to say “Thank you.”
He said he wanted to send a positive message to officers to “mend broken relationships” between law enforcement and the public.
“We want to be an example for not only our community and the state, but also the nation,” Barton said. “It really is important that we show appreciation for the people who help our communities.”
U.S. Rep. John J. “Jimmy” Duncan, Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett and state representatives Art Swann and Bob Ramsey were among the crowd for the free event, which also featured face painting, a bounce house and horse petting for kids and a UT Lifestar helicopter landing.
Ken Mickiewicz, vice president of operations for Front Range Training, said he worked in law enforcement for 38 years and believes the officers’ families also deserve thanks.
“It’s about the people here,” he said. “People who sacrifice, maybe not physically, but emotionally every day for their community — missed birthdays, missed kid’s birthdays, missed anniversaries, missed Christmases.”
Maryville Police Department Sgt. Scott Spicer said he has felt the emotional sacrifice and called the appreciation shown “humbling.”
“Especially in today’s climate where it’s kind of a thankless job,” Spicer said. “It’s definitely a calling, and a lot of people don’t understand why we do it.”
Spicer said he does it because he wants to give back to the community. He said he “wouldn’t do anything else.”
Maryville resident Kelli Craig said while it’s important to recognize problems involving law enforcement, “there’s a bad apple in every group,” and most officers work to serve the public.
Spicer said appreciation like Craig’s is one of the reasons he dedicates his life to law enforcement.
“From the uniform, the command presence, the camaraderie, the people we serve — it just makes it all worth it.”