Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell was the guest speaker for the annual “Back the Badge” program sponsored by the Whitehall Pentecostal Church. This year’s event was held Thursday, September 18th.
Reverend Joey Paul served as master of ceremonies and welcomed everyone to the event, which included a packed house of first responders along with special guests.“We want to welcome all of you here tonight as we show our appreciation to all our first responders for the job they do in keeping us and our communities safe,” he said.
Clovis Gibson, ministry team leader and a past board member at Whitehall Pentecostal Church, recognized the elected officials in attendance at the meeting, which included Third Circuit Judge Jimmie C. Peters, District Judge Chris Peters, District Attorney J. Reed Walters, LaSalle Sheriff Scott Franklin, LaSalle Clerk of Court Steve Andrews, LaSalle Assessor Tom Kendrick, Jena Chief of Police Paul M. Smith, Olla Chief of Police John Stott, retired Olla Chief of Police Gary Taylor, and State Representative Terry Brown, along with others.
Sheriff Franklin told the gathering that he was proud of the men and women of the LaSalle Parish Sheriff’s Office and other law enforcement agencies for their service to the citizens of this parish. “It’s not what I do, it is what they do day in and day out to serve our citizens. We have some of the finest qualified individuals in the Sheriff’s Office serving the citizens of the Parish,” he said. “We want to thank the folks at Whitehall Pentecostal Church for hosting this event each year. We get a lot of complaints and criticism, but few words of thanks. So we say thank you for caring and expressing your appreciation in this manner.”
John Stephens, chairman of the board at Whitehall, spoke briefly, thanking all of the first responders – law enforcement, military, firefighters, paramedics, medical staff and civilian volunteers – for their service. He concluded his remarks by reading a poem about law enforcement. Attorney General Caldwell was very brief in his remarks, saying that he knows first-hand how important good law enforcement is to the state of Louisiana.“It takes everyone doing their jobs to fight crime in our state,” he said. “Local law enforcement officials, judges and district attorneys are on the front lines of that fight.”
Caldwell recalled his 29 years as District Attorney serving three northeast Louisiana parishes, before becoming Louisiana’s Attorney General seven years ago.“In law enforcement, we are family,” he said. “And we all work together as a family.”
At the outset of the program, the Veterans Honor Guard presented the colors, Ed Tarpley, former DA of Grant Parish and candidate for Representative, led in the pledge of allegiance, and Shanna Nunez sang the national anthem.Jena Chief of Police Paul Smith gave the invocation.
Nathan Martin, a member of the Pineville City Council and active in the D.A.R.E. program in Rapides Parish and Christian Challenge, gave a moving speech about law enforcement officers being “Supermen” to the youth of the community.“Young people look up to you as Supermen, and you cannot fail them,” he said. “You need to set a good example for them to follow.”
Rev. Dominick DiCarlo, pastor of First Baptist Church of Jena, was called upon to lead in a prayer especially for the law enforcement team of the parish.
After Caldwell had finished the keynote address, Bishop Everett “Shorty” Mayo was called upon to give the benediction and bless the meal. Members of Whitehall Pentecostal Church provided a delicious meal for those in attendance and the Whitehall Praise Singers and The Foundation Shakers – Whitehall Signing Team provided entertainment as everyone enjoyed the evening meal.