Giving kudos to those who lay it on the line

Posted: Friday, December 12, 2008

As human beings, there's a quite bit in life we take for granted. Most of us have come to know and expect the comforts of life -- electricity, running water and heat. We have a roof over our heads, a bed to sleep in, schools for our children, roads to get us where we need to go -- shopping, eating and the movies.

We also take for granted that when we need assistance, whether it's a car accident or a theft, someone will come to our rescue.

These same people also come into our schools and talk to our children about safety. They lead the parades in our communities and help us when our vehicles break down in the middle of the road.

Sometimes we forget they put their lives on the line every single day.

Two weeks ago, Soldotna suffered a great loss -- and they were there. The Central Peninsula Hospital shootings were nothing less than tragic, but we had the best advantage we could possibly have: our law enforcement -- Soldotna police and Alaska State Troopers -- was there to protect us and prevent a bad situation from getting worse.

When the call was made that a shooter was roaming the halls of the hospital, they never hesitated for a second. They were there to serve and protect, putting their lives on the line for the sake of others.

On Wednesday evening, the city of Soldotna recognized the exceptional bravery, heroism and professionalism of four men: Commendations of Valor were presented to senior Officer Johnny Whitehead, Sgt. Robb Quelland and Officer Tony Garcia, and a Commendation of Exemplary Service was presented to Officer Victor Dillon. Our troopers should be recognized, too. Lt. Dane Gilmore and Sgts. James Truesdell and Daniel Cox placed their lives in danger, as well.

The men of the Soldotna Police Department will probably tell you they were just doing their job. But it's more than just a job, it's a commitment that few can make. Being an emergency responder takes a willingness to provide for others, and they choose to do this, even knowing they may possibly have to make the ultimate sacrifice.

When the officers at the hospital surrounded Joe Marchetti that day, they did everything they could to end it peacefully. Unfortunately, after Marchetti reportedly made an assertive move, three troopers shot at him, fatally wounding him.

The wounds of that day will take a while to heal, and many will never forget it.

After a while we will come take these people for granted again -- it's human nature. But we will never forget they were there on that one day, and they did their part to make our world a little bit safer. And for that we are grateful.

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