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Department says farewell to officers deploying overseas

Littleton Police Officer Joe Priest with his wife Trish share a quiet moment during a party at the Beal House. Priest deploys to Afghanistan in January. Art McGrath. (click for larger version)
December 09, 2009
LITTLETON–During a Christmas party this week, the Littleton Police Department wished the best for several of its officers who will soon be deploying to Afghanistan.

One of the officers will be leaving in a few weeks for three months, another will leave in early January, while a third is scheduled to deploy next August.

During the party, which was held at the Beal House Restaurant and Inn on West Main Street and attended by about 50 officers, family and friends, a traditional "hail and farewell" was held. The hail for new staff members, in this case a new administrative assistant, the farewell for those soon to depart, though Police Chief Paul Smith said, "I won't say farewell but instead say 'see ya later,' because we'll definitely see you again."

The two officers deploying in the near future are Chris Cote, who will leave Dec. 31 for a three month tour in Afghanistan in the U.S. Air Force, and Joe Priest, who leaves not long after the first of the year for a one-year stint in Afghanistan.

Smith thanked the officers for their service and reminded those present that it would be a difficult departure for some.

"When Joe deploys he'll leave his family behind," Smith said. In an emotional moment he directly addressed Priest's wife, Trish, telling her she was family.

"Trish, if you need anything don't hesitate to ask," Smith said to her, while she cried quietly next to her husband.

Officer Jim Gardiner, who is a captain in the National Guard, is currently training for his deployment in August and has been gone three of the past four weeks, Smith said.

David Keller, the owner of the Beal House, presented a gift of a large cake to all the officers and their guests. The cake, which was cooked by sous-chef Katie Green, was a chocolate devil's food cake with raspberry butter cream frosting.

"With compassion and gratitude this is our gift for your service," Keller said. Keller noted he was an Air Force veteran of the First Gulf War.

After the presentation of the cake, Smith presented awards to officers and civilians connected with the department. The first was a citation to the Volunteers in Police Service (VIPS), a volunteer group which helps the department with administrative work, including paperwork and performing house checks. Smith said that VIPS was instrumental in smoothing out the entire moving process when the department moved in late June from its old home in the former Littleton Regional Hospital to its new police station on West Main Street.

Smith also presented a commendation and plaque to Detective Michelle Soares, who single-handedly arrested the suspect in an armed robbery of Rite Aid that took place earlier this year. The suspect had been followed by a civilian from Littleton and Soares was able to intercept the suspect 40 minutes after the robbery and perform a felony arrest. Because of the remoteness of the area, she had to do it before backup arrived.

The last award of the night was the founding of a new tradition—or at least the revival of a very old one, Smith wasn't sure—naming an Officer of the Year. Gary Hebert, who has been on the force about a year, received the award, which included a plaque and a gift certificate for dinner for two at Bailiwicks Restaurant in Littleton.

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