Veterans Day observed on Wednesday in the city and nationwide held special meaning for 19 officers of the Solon Police Department.
All veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces, the officers transitioned from a military life to a para-military one, bringing a sense of teamwork and discipline to their roles.
For Sgt. Courtenay Perkins, a resident of Cortland who served six years active duty in the U.S. Air Force, service before self is “engrained in our blood.
“The military drives service before self,” Sgt. Perkins, 34, said. “It is engrained in us to do what we can to protect those around us.”
Transitioning to police work was a natural progression, added Officer Tom Lesner, 50, of Auburn and veteran of the U.S. Army.
“It’s in your blood and something you are driven to do,” he said. “It was an easy transition.
“It’s in you.”
The Solon officers, as well as those throughout the 13 communities of the Bedford Municipal Court, are being recognized through this year’s Branch to Badge fundraiser. It was created to honor and say thank you to veterans who signed the dotted line to serve their country and then went on to take the oath as police officers.
The organization calls them “double winners and incredible Americans.”
An officer is chosen quarterly to receive lunch in the community they serve. Branch to Badge partnered with Nike on this year’s fundraiser and many area businesses are making donations, including Miles Farmers Market in Solon and Chagrin Falls Painting, among others.
Those wishing to donate can visit the link at ohiocitypower.net/support.html. The fundraiser ends Nov. 19.
The officers said that much of what they learned in the military mirror the lessons they learn on the department each day.
“You learn about chain of command and taking accountability for yourself and other people,” Solon resident and patrol officer Keon Hemerlein, 24, who served in the U.S. Army, said.
There are many similarities between military life and police life, Mr. Hemerlein continued, such as the idea of teamwork, camaraderie and working toward one goal.
Officer Aaron Bledsoe, 27, a resident of Mentor who served in the U.S. Army, said that being in the military has made him a better officer.
“We know structure and discipline,” he said, “and can use that in many other aspects of life.”
Being in the military has increased his appreciation for the great country in which he lives, Officer Matt Troyer, 48, a resident of Chester Township who served in the U.S. Marine Corps, said. He took with him many life experiences, he said, as well as his travels.
He held with him a definite sense of pride on Veterans Day this week, Mr. Troyer added.
Solon resident Jim Fiktus, 46, who served in the U.S. Air Force, said there was a maturing process that happens in the military.
“You are exposed to a lot of different people and you see how things are done in different countries during conflicts,” he said.
Both military and police life was a natural progression for Solon resident Donald Haines, who followed in the footsteps of his father Steve.
“It was a great stepping stone,” said Mr. Haines, 40, who served in the U.S. Army. His father was also a member of the armed forces and retired Solon police officer.
“One thing I took from the military is leadership,” Mr. Haines said. There is also an appreciation from those you serve.
“We get that acknowledgment from people you don’t know telling you thank you,” he said.