We just finished the Sixth Annual District Attorney’s Law Enforcement Appreciation Banquet. The Fayetteville First Baptist Church was packed. We served meals to about 550 people.
I wish all of you could have been there. Heroes were everywhere.
Let me share with you a glimpse of the presentation of just one of the awards. It was the Award for Overcoming Adversity. Here’s what I shared with the audience:
“The late Captain Mike Pruitt provided the inspiration for the next award. We call it the Award for Overcoming Adversity. Capt. Pruitt battled cancer and drug dealers at the same time and for as long as his body would cooperate, he whipped them both.
“Since then we have given the award to a jailer who didn’t let a heart attack stop him from an emergency task at hand, finishing it before seeking medical attention. We have recognized a former sheriff who, despite an election defeat, went to work as a deputy, was shot in the head by a maniac, and still came back to work.
“The award calls to our attention a trait of the law enforcement profession that the rest of us observe with wide-eyed amazement. No matter how tough things may get, no matter what the obstacle, these men and women get the job done.
“Such is the case with this year’s recipient of the award.
“On July 20, 2011 a tragic event rocked the world for all of us. A Clayton County deputy sheriff was killed in the line of duty. His funeral, a few days later, was attended by thousands of law enforcement officers. The procession of patrol cars and motorcycles from the church to the burial location stretched for miles. For all law enforcement officers everywhere, this was personal.
“It was particularly so for one deputy sheriff in our circuit. You see, the deputy that was killed was his father.
“I can’t imagine the anguish he must have experienced. Most people would have quit their jobs and found a different line of work.
“The word ‘quit’ is not in this deputy’s vocabulary. But, he does call to mind these words: ‘courage’, ‘guts’, ‘determination’, ‘dedication’, ‘hero’.
“This deputy didn’t quit. Instead, he put on his duty belt, positioned his hat on his head and went to work to protect you and me. Every day.
“Asked about this decision, he told one of his fellow deputies, ‘If the shoe were on the other foot, my dad would go back to work.’
“Well, I’m very certain that his dad would be proud of the way his son has overcome adversity. The people of the Griffin Judicial Circuit sure are.
“It’s my honor to present the 2012 Award for Overcoming Adversity to a deputy from the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office, Lt. Toby Daly.”
Now imagine 550 people on their feet and a 45 second standing ovation.
It was that kind of night.
Ballard is district attorney for the Griffin Judicial District, which includes Fayette, Upson, Spalding and Pike counties.