Officers honored for service

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 3, 2004

Camouflage fatigues, combat boots and tan sheriff’s department uniforms intermingled during a ceremony last week honoring law enforcement officers in the county who returned home after serving in Operation Enduring Freedom.

Some of the honorees chose to wear their police uniforms; others wore military dress. The distinction revealed the similar objectives of sheriff’s deputies and soldiers.

Sgt. Mike Hudson of the sheriff’s department wrote letters back from Iraq and said his job was similar. He patrolled Shelby County, and he patrolled Iraq from January 2003 through June 2004.

Shelby County Sheriff Chris Curry presented plaques to members of his department who had all recently returned from service in Iraq, Kuwait and other Middle Eastern nations. Red, white and blue balloons hovered behind the soldiers as tears fell from some of their eyes as well as from the eyes of many in the crowd.

At the introduction of the ceremony, Curry said he came up with the idea for the event several months ago while anxiously awaiting the return of several members of his staff from Iraq.

Curry wanted the county to know the service these men had performed overseas and at home.

&uot;I will say to you, ‘We’re in very good hands,’&uot; Curry said. &uot;We’re blessed and fortunate.&uot;

One special guest during Thursday’s ceremony was Columbiana Mayor Allan Lowe, who served during Operation Enduring Freedom. Lowe said soldiers don’t serve for simple reasons.

&uot;We don’t serve for thanks, pay, food or privacy,&uot; he said. &uot;We serve because we have a sense of duty to our country.

&uot;Patriotism stirs something in your body that no other feeling can touch.&uot;

When people ask how to thank soldiers who serve, Lowe said to remember their families.

&uot;When we have to go, we’re concerned about our families. Pray for our families,&uot; he said.

Hudson echoed Lowe’s comments about family. While serving more than an entire year in Iraq, Hudson thought of his wife and family, he said.

&uot;I’d like to thank my wife and my family for being there the times I couldn’t. I love you, sweetie,&uot; Hudson said.

Deputy Tim Billingsley wore a soldier’s uniform bedecked with a swath of colorful medals as he stood and spoke.

Billingsley left for service as his wife became pregnant, and he said he’s thankful to be home today.

&uot;We don’t take one day from here on for granted,&uot; he said.

Curry closed the ceremony with a simple salutation.

&uot;Gentlemen, thank you.