While the American Legion is known for its support of veterans, Tigard American Legion Post 158 also has a long-standing tradition of recognizing local police officers and firefighters, and it honored two more at its annual "Americanism" banquet Tuesday night.
Brian Orth was named as Officer of the Year, and Kelly Bach was named Firefighter of the Year.
Before introducing Orth, Tigard Police Cmdr. Jamey McDonald said, "This dinner really is incredible for us as an agency. Thank you to those of you who have served our country so courageously."
He added, "Brian Orth has been with us for 10 years and is a boots-on-the-ground guy. His outreach to the homeless population is one of the things he does so well along with connecting those people with the services they need. One of the things Brian has done is working with veterans ... and getting them into permanent housing."
McDonald went on to say, "This is not his primary job. He chooses to work with the most vulnerable population. Brian has a deep passion to connect these people with the services they need."
The American Legion's Patsy Nestor, who has held numerous positions in the organization including department commander, started the program to honor a police officer and firefighter each year. She recalled that when she initially met with resistance, she went directly to Police Chief Ron Goodpaster and TVF&R Chief Jeff Johnson and got their approval and support to kick off the annual event.
After Nestor presented Orth with his certificate for outstanding service to the community, he praised American Legion members for being supportive of his efforts to help the homeless.
"When I was going through the whole process of helping veterans, I came to the American Legion, and they asked what I needed," Orth said. "I said we needed PO boxes. Every little bit helps, and it's nice to know that people are willing to help. It's powerful that people know they can come here and get help. This is great. This is fantastic to have the support of everyone here."
Next up was TVF&R Division Chief Allen Kennedy, who said, "It's really an honor to be here every year and to honor Battalion Chief Kelly Bach as the Firefighter of the Year. He has been with TVF&R for 22 years and has been an apparatus operator and a lieutenant, and he was part of a technical rescue crew that handled complex calls. He opened the Walnut Street station and was captain there for 10 years and is now a battalion chief."
Kennedy said that TVF&R nominated Bach in part because of all his outside work that includes 10 years spent as president of the Oregon State Firefighters Council plus previously serving on the Governor's Fire Service Safety Committee, Department of Public Safety Standards & Training, Western Region National Fire Protection Agency and International Association of Firefighters Wildland Committee. Bach currently serves on other committees.
"I never expected to get this honor, and I'm proud to get this," Bach said. "I also appreciate what the American Legion does."
The evening also honored the American Legion Auxiliary's Girls State and Boys State participants, which sends incoming high school seniors to Willamette University for a week in June for an in-depth and hands-on program about how Oregon's government works; the program includes opportunities to participate in a mock government complete with elections and a legislative session.
Girls State Director Erin Walters introduced Brenda Sherlock, who runs the Post 158 unit program and invited three high school seniors in attendance to describe what they learned from last summer's program.
Kelley Ericson, who attends Lakeridge High School and will be attending the United States Military Academy at West Point next year, said she enjoyed the challenges of the program and the opportunity to improve her leadership skills.
Breanna Johnson, who attends Jesuit High School, said it gave her a great understanding of Oregon government and she gained leadership skills and wonderful friendships.
Lili Paxton said she ran for five offices and was elected to four, and she had the opportunity to write legislation. She was one of two girls elected as a senator from Oregon and therefore one of 100 girls — two from every state — who attended the national Girls State program in July in Washington, D.C.
The evening ended on a high note for Nestor, who said one of her life goals was to ride on a fire engine, and Kennedy promised her he would make that happen.