By Wes Wade, The Daily Times —
Police, firefighters and emergency personnel converged on a Maryville business Friday afternoon, however instead of an emergency response, their presence was for an event to honor law enforcement and first responders.
The “Honoring our Heroes” event drew a large community response, bringing police, firefighters and emergency personnel from Blount County and surrounding areas to the headquarters of Vanquish Worldwide on South Old Glory Road.
Several Blount County officials were present to honor the group, as were several politicians or their representatives.
Vanquish Worldwide President and CEO Eric Barton, a former U.S. Marine, said this was not the first Honoring our Heroes event, but the first to honor a large group of police and other first responders. The events have been held every year since 2010, when the first such event was held at Barton’s LexLin Gypsy Ranch in Rockwood.
As Barton explained, he got the idea for this year’s theme after tiring of the media questioning law enforcement’s use of force. Barton, who is the president and CEO of 23 companies, said this was the first Honoring our Heroes event at Vanquish Worldwide.
Barton said he and his organization invited more than 200 agencies in 10 counties to Friday’s event, including groups in Blount, Knox, Campbell, Jefferson, Grainger, Loudon, Morgan, Anderson, Sevier and Roane counties.
“This is not just an event for those 10 counties,” Barton said to attendees. “It’s an event for our state, and it’s an example, we hope, for our nation, to show support for the men and women who make such a huge difference in our lives … you men and women protect us, you protect our property, our loved ones. You’re always there in emergencies, and so many times you don’t get a thank you.”
Barton said the gathering — which took place between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. — was also to honor the friends and family of police, firefighters and EMTs.
“They’re not wearing a badge, but they’re making a sacrifice alongside you,” Barton said. “This is about you, and saying thank you, and showing our appreciation and our love for what you do.”
Those in attendance included U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr., state Reps. Bob Ramsey and Art Swann, as well as representatives from the offices of U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker.
Duncan was one of several speakers, as was Maryville Police and Fire Chief Tony Crisp.
Crisp said he routinely tells people that what he does is “necessary,” but that the police officers who patrol the streets and respond to calls are the ones who should be honored.
“That’s the people who do the important work for this community,” Crisp told the crowd.
Crisp told The Daily Times that he greatly appreciated all the hard work that Barton and his organization went through to host Friday’s event.
“Hats off to Eric Barton and Vanquish Worldwide for their generosity and taking time out to honor our emergency services — our police officers, firefighters and EMTs,” Crisp said. “For that we’re grateful.”
Crisp added that the Blount County community has always been very supportive of law enforcement and other first responders.
Alcoa Fire Chief Roger Robinson, who attended with a number of Alcoa Fire Department representatives, said he was impressed with the gathering.
“We just can’t say enough about Vanquish Worldwide,” Robinson said. “It means a lot to all the agencies around here, and we’re just blessed to have a company like this in Blount County.”