American Legion honors local officers’ service

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As veterans themselves, the members of American Legion Post 13 are acclimated to the demands of public service and took the chance this week to show appreciation for local law enforcement officers.

“Words can’t describe the sacrifice they and their families make,” said post commander Marty Bartlett during the Tuesday ceremony at Carolina Cheese Co.

The Wilson Police Department and Wilson County Sheriff’s Office were asked to nominate one of their own for accolades. In the nomination letter for Senior Police Officer Ashley Gregory, Sgt. Batchelor wrote about the Wilson native joining the department in 2010 and quickly standing out as an effective patrol officer. In 2016, Gregory became a detective and continued to excel, closing several robbery cases last year.

“This exemplary job performance demonstrates her dedication and loyalty to the Wilson Police Department and more importantly to the citizens of Wilson,” the nomination letter states.

Gregory categorized the award as “a huge honor.”

James Ruffin has been with the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office for a decade and is assigned to the civil division. The Wilson County native said he was thrilled to have his supervisors and family at the event to support him.

“It is an honor and a privilege to serve Wilson County and the sheriff,” Ruffin said.

In addition to the law enforcement awards, Bartlett gave out nine certificates of appreciation and named the legionnaire of the year, but this year the highest honor went to two members in a tie. Debra Deaton, who has been an American Legion member more than double the length of her seven years in the Air Force, was stunned by the honor as was Edward “Buddy” Pipkin, an Army veteran with six years in the Legion.

Deaton is involved in a variety of activities while Pipkin adapts an alter ego as Santa during the holidays, visiting nursing homes and schools throughout the area at no charge.

“My favorite part is to see the smiles on the faces of the senior citizens,” Pipkin said. “I’ll go into facilities and they’ll tell me Santa was the first visit this person or that person got the entire year. We’ll cut up and laugh together, then I’ll give them a goodie bag or stuffed animal. It just warms my heart and I really enjoy it.”