You felt it the instant you walked into the hall. A warmth, a safeness. It wasn't the number of uniforms, although there were quite a few. It was more of a comfortable friendliness. Kind of like when you get home after a hard day's work and can relax and not worry about how you look or feel, knowing you are accepted for simply who you are.
The American Legion Safety Awards - I look forward to them every year. It's great to see the public safety honorees get well-deserved recognition for their dedication and bravery. We appreciate all the hard work that goes into the evening. However, I have a selfish motive for attending as well. It recharges my batteries. I know it has the same affect on the officers who receive the awards. I see it in their eyes when they are standing up in front. Even more rewarding is seeing the love and admiration in the eyes of their children, spouses and families who are seated around me. It makes it worth it.
The Legion brings a priceless gift to our communities with these safety awards. This year's was the 20th annual ceremony. It was really special. The speaker, the American Legion Department Commander for the state of Washington Larry Watson focused on law enforcement's role in our nation. It was a powerful message recognizing our role in public safety through law enforcement. Commander Watson made it especially meaningful in linking us with the millions of men and women who have served our nation in our military. He spoke of the necessary partnership and support of our citizens to work as a team with us. You could feel what he was speaking about in the hall. It was common sense in rural America - respect for our nation and the willingness to sacrifice for the greater good. Feelings and thoughts sometimes buried, lost in the mechanics of every day life.
It was visible in the Legion Hall in Ilwaco. The speech reflected it. There were human beings who had served us, sometimes at great peril to themselves and their colleagues, standing right in front of us. Local and state elected officials read awards and accounts of their accomplishments. The audience could not help but realize that the heart of our country was on display right in front of them.
It is my great hope that those of you who could not attend gain, through my reflection, a small portion of the emotions generated at the event. Just a realization that every day in our local cities, county and waterways there are people just like you risking their lives for your family. They deserve your support.