GREENFIELD — When Brian Guinn first put on the badge some 30 years ago, he wanted to make his community a better place.
Monday night, the Greenfield Police Department captain was reassured he’s done just that.
During Monday night’s Hometown Heroes Cornhole Tourney — an event that brings together first-responders, military members and the community to remember the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks — the American Legion Post 119 honored local public safety members.
Guinn, captain of Greenfield Police Department’s road patrol division, was recognized as Police Officer of the Year for his dedication to the department and his community.
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Bryan Marr, a firefighter for the Greenfield Fire Territory, was named Firefighter of the Year, and RJ Beaver, assistant chief for the Greenfield Fire Territory, was named EMS of the Year.
The awards, recognizing the recipients’ commitment to service, were handed out during a quiet ceremony before the evening’s bean bags tournament began. About 185 community members attended.
The event, which celebrated its second year, was born after Greenfield Main Street and the Greenfield Veterans Honor Guard teamed up to host a program in recognition of the anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001.
For years, the Greenfield Honor Guard came together on Sept. 11 to pause and remember, performing a 21-gun salute and playing Taps. They honor the roughly 3,000 Americans who lost their lives that day, especially first-responders who died trying to save others.
Last year, Greenfield Main Street, an organization dedicated to bettering the downtown area, launched a new event to thank first-responders for their service by hosting a basketball tournament.
Instead of hosting two separate events, the honor guard and organization decided to join forces, said Greenfield Main Street director Shelley Swift. This year, they included the American Legion, which handed out its Commitment to Service awards for the first time in a decade, said commander Kurt Vetters.
More than a decade ago, the legion honored first-responders annually with the awards. This year, members wanted to bring back a beloved tradition, he said.
Handing out the awards during the Hometown Heroes event seemed most appropriate, he said.
Honoring local first-responders each Sept. 11 is fitting, organizers of the event said. Annually, the community pauses to remember veterans, and they should take time to thank police officers and firefighters, too.
On a day when thousands evacuated burning buildings following the plane crashes, firefighters, police officers and EMS personnel rushed inside, said U.S. Army veteran Coy Turner. More than 300 died.
“Sept. 11, unlike Memorial Day, Veterans Day …, it’s not just about thanking the military,” he said.
Vetters echoed those sentiments, adding first-responders serve the community every day, no matter the danger ahead.
“They’re the people who every day run into harm’s way,” he said. “The act of raising their right hand to serve separates them.”
American Legion members met with police and fire department leaders to identify officers and firefighters most deserving of the awards, Vetters said.
Next year, the legion hopes to add an additional award for folks working for local power companies. Recent hurricanes in Texas and Florida have highlighted the important role journeymen play during recovery following a natural disaster, he said. Local teams headed to Texas earlier this month to help restore power there, and more are likely to be dispatched to Florida.
That’s a dangerous job, too, Vetters said, making it worthy of such an award.
Guinn, who learned ahead of Monday’s event he’d be recognized, became a full-time police officer 27 years ago and has spent every day trying to serve the place he calls home to the best of his ability, he said.
He’s honored to be chosen police officer of the year.
“I must be doing something right,” he said.