By Marda Johnson | Times Sentinel Writer
Zionsville American Legion Post 79 and the community found many ways to thank those who provide public safety on Sunday afternoon.
During the Legion's Zionsville Police Appreciation Day, some were obvious: a speech, the presentation of a plaque, and a cookout. But there were more subtle expressions of thanks too: handshakes, pats on the back and hugs during an afternoon of celebration.
James May, the Indiana Department Commander for the American Legion, during the program explained why it was natural for the legion to pay homage to local law enforcement.
"Military service and police service go hand-in-hand," May said. "Both require a sense of duty to something greater than yourself. Both require an unwavering dedication to your country, your state, your county, your city, your homeland. And both require sacrifices from our families and loved ones to support us in our service."
May thanked the Zionsville officers personally.
"We Legionnaires understand, perhaps better than most, your sacrifice. I know none of you wish to be called heroes, but that is exactly what you are. You know the dangers you face and yet you don't falter from your duty our to our communities. And for that we all truly thank you for your service."
May said the American Legion first celebrated police officers in Indiana when the 1966-67 commander saw turmoil in the nation at the start of the Vietnam War.
"Our citizens were rioting in cities across the nation," he said. "They lashed out at our law enforcement and our veterans alike. We decided then to build a tradition, to show our respect and our appreciation of the service our law enforcement officers have earned and deserve. This tradition couldn't be more relevant today. The appalling action of a few misguided, confused and ill individuals have left many law enforcement officer families across the nation the nation in tragic situations and in desperate need of our support."
Roses were presented to all of the officers' spouses to say thank you to them, too. And blue lightbulbs were passed out so residents could use them to replace white bulbs on their front porches as a way to show support for the local officers every night.
"Isn't this awesome?" asked Zionsville Police Chief Rob Knox, as police officers and their families mingled with members of the legion, town and county officials, and community members who turned out for the event. "We are receiving a lot of support from folks."
Soon all the official business was done.
Still, children played on an inflatable obstacle course as the adults gathered in small groups to visit. That's when Legion Chaplain Rick Baum quietly approached Chief Knox. Unfastening a small navy blue pin from his uniform, Baum explained that he had two sons who served in the military, and that both pursued careers in law enforcement as well.
One, he said, died.
Baum had worn the "in memoriam" pin to honor his son for eight years. On Sunday, he reverently placed the pin in Knox's hand. Baum did not care to share the private details of his loss, but he did want the chief to have the pin, knowing Knox would understand its significance.
"These men have to be called upon at any given moment and we need them, and they need our backing. They deserve our backing," Baum said.
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