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Posted: February 1, 2010 9:06 a.m.

Beyond the call of duty

Brittany Thomas/

Men of honor: Deputies James Trent and Wesley Atha received Purple Hearts for injuries they sustained in August. Sgt. Tommy Thomason received the Lifesaving Award by removing a barrette from a child's throat.

The men and women who dedicate their lives to careers in law enforcement are required to be brave, to be selfless and to help others in distress, and while every one of the deputies in the Newton County Sheriff's Department fits the bill, three were honored Friday afternoon who went one step further, starting a tradition at the NCSO that Sheriff Ezell Brown hopes to continue.

When Deputies James Trent and Wesley Atha responded to a suicide call in August, neither men could have known that their actions that day would brand them as heroes and start a county-wide program to provide better bullet-proof vests for all deputies.

As the deputies exited their vehicles and approached a home on Parker Road, shots were fired. While doing their job, Trent was shot in the chin — the bullet exiting his neck, and Atha was shot in the arm and the back — his vest being the only thing that saved his life that day.

For Trent and Atha, Brown awarded them the Purple Heart, a medal given "to officers who performing their duties are injured," according to the American Police Award Program. Their names were also placed on the American Police Hall of Fame.

Sgt. Tommy Thomason received his award for saving the life of a 11-month-old girl in October. While on patrol, he heard a call for EMS go out over his radio, and since he was in the area and a trained EMT, he responded. After several ties he was able to get his fingers into the child's throat and pull out a barrette that had lodged itself there. For his efforts he was presents with the Lifesaving Award "for law enforcement... whose actions save the life of a fellow citizen in emergency."

"Perhaps more than 40 years ago the American Police Award Program was started and it was a vehicle for recognizing the worthwhile effort of law enforcement officers," said Brown. "Those officers who put their lives on the line each and every day and those who perform heroic and lifesaving activities.

"All too often we open the newspaper or turn on the news to view negative press," he continued. "The public and the officers do not hear of the countless good deeds performed every day. So it is my pleasure to begin a new tradition at the Newton County Sheriff's Office and throughout my tenure we will continue to honor those among us who have truly gone beyond the call of duty." 

For Trent and Atha, Brown awarded them the Purple Heart, a medal given "to officers who performing their duties are injured," according to the American Police Award Program. Their names were also placed on the American Police Hall of Fame.

Sgt. Tommy Thomason received his award for saving the life of a 2-year-old girl in October. While on patrol, he heard a call for EMS go out over his radio, and since he was in the area and a trained EMT, he responded. After several tries he was able to get his fingers into the child's throat and pull out a barrette that had lodged itself there. For his efforts he was presented with the Lifesaving Award "for law enforcement... whose actions save the life of a fellow citizen in emergency."

"Perhaps more than 40 years ago the American Police Award Program was started and it was a vehicle for recognizing the worthwhile effort of law enforcement officers," said Brown. "Those officers who put their lives on the line each and every day and those who perform heroic and lifesaving activities.

"All too often we open the newspaper or turn on the news to view negative press," he continued. "The public and the officers do not hear of the countless good deeds performed every day. So it is my pleasure to begin a new tradition at the Newton County Sheriff's Office and throughout my tenure we will continue to honor those among us who have truly gone beyond the call of duty."

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