VFW honors firefighter and police officer of the yearPublished 5:28pm Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Members of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5184 are considered heroes for the sacrifices and contributions they have made to this country, but for the past seven years, the VFW has made a point to honor other local heroes at their annual Veterans Day reception.
This past Sunday, the VFW honored local firefighters and police officers and named fireman Mickey Gentry as the fireman of the year and Russellville Police Department and Franklin County Drug Unit Inv. Sgt. Joe Hargett as the police officer of the year for 2013.
VFW Post 5184 Commander Bill Jackson said that both Hargett and Gentry were presented with plaques and engraved knives.
“It’s always a special thing for us to be able to do this for our police officers and firefighters,” Jackson said. “These two men are dedicated to what they do and are obviously well thought of by their peers.”
Even though the VFW presents the awards, the honor is voted on by fellow firefighters and law enforcement officers, which is something Hargett said made the honor even more special.
“This is award is such an honor and I am so grateful to receive it,” Hargett said, “but I think of this as more of a joint award than an individual award. I couldn’t accomplish anything without my co-workers who felt I deserved this award. I work with a great group of people and I appreciate everything that they do.”
Hargett has been in law enforcement since 2000 where he started out working for the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office.
In 2003, Hargett became the county’s K-9 officer and served in that capacity until 2005 when he became an officer for the Russellville Police Department.
In 2006, Hargett was promoted to an investigator and served in that capacity until he was appointed as an investigator with the Franklin County Drug Unit when it was formed in March 2012.
Hargett said his brother, Russellville Police Chief Chris Hargett, was his inspiration for becoming a police officer.
“Being a police officer wasn’t necessarily something I had always thought about doing, but I saw how much Chris loved it and it got me interested,” Hargett said.
“I have really loved being in law enforcement, mainly because there are times when you are able to feel like you have made a difference in someone’s life.
“One of the most enjoyable aspects of my job is just knowing I have helped someone who was going through a tough time, whatever that may be.
“Out of all my positions, my current position with the drug unit has been the most rewarding because we try to do what we can to get these drugs off the streets, but we also try to help these people turn their lives around.
“We’d much rather see these people get help – to get into rehab and get out of doing drugs – than just sit in jail.
“I truly appreciate being recognized for doing something I’ve enjoyed doing and I appreciate the VFW for supporting us in all that we do.”
Russellville Firefighter Mickey Gentry has been a firefighter since 1996 when he first started working with Frankfort Fire Department.
Gentry transferred to the Russellville Fire Department in 2000 and served as a volunteer fireman until he became a full-time fireman in 2006.
For Gentry, his current career is a fulfillment of something he always dreamed of as a young boy.
“I think just about every boy wants to be a firefighter at some point, but for me, I knew this was something I wanted to do because I love to help people,” Gentry said.
“Being a firefighter is everything I thought it would be and more. Sure, there are some difficult things about this job. there are things that we see that are sad, and there are some things we can’t control, but that is just more motivation for us to keep training, keep improving, and make sure we are doing the best job we can to protect our community.”
Gentry said that even though there were things about being a fireman that were hard, the rewards make it all worth it.
“One of the most memorable things about my time as a fireman was one of the time we read to students at the elementary school,” he said.
“Later on, those kids sent us handwritten cards in the mail, and reading those cards was just like a confirmation that I was doing exactly what I needed to be doing.
“Things like that are what motivates you to stay with it when it gets hard. And my brothers at the fire department are a big part of what makes this job so great, too. We are all one big family – when one of us needs help, we’re all there for each other, and it’s great to be part of something like that.
“I appreciate my brothers at the fire department for voting for me to receive this award. This is a tremendous honor and means so much to me. I also appreciate the VFW for honoring us the way they have. It’s very humbling to be honored by these veterans.”
Russellville Mayor David Grissom said Sunday’s reception was one of the highlights of the year.
“I am so appreciative of these groups of people – the VFW, the firefighters and our law enforcement – and I just want to thank them for their service to our country and to our community,” Grissom said.
“Each one of them are heroes and deserve the recognition they received.
“I want to say a special thanks to Bill Jackson and the rest of the VFW Post 5184 for hosting this reception.
“It is a true testament to the character of the members of this organization that they would take time out to honor others on a day like Veterans Day where they are the ones who should be receiving the honor.”