Editor’s Note: Though all precious stones are beautiful, some gems are unique. The diamond that follows is Sutter Creek resident Jon Campbell’s Citizen of the Year Award acceptance speech presented on Saturday, October 26, 2019 at the American Legion Hall in Martell. That night, the Amador County Peace Officers Association also bestowed honors on Craig Zaragoza of the CHP for Peace Officer of the Year. What is impossible to account for here are the intricacies, the interjections (some are transcribed, some are lost to time), the honesty conveyed in the delivery, the attention and emotion of the audience, and the environment of a community dinner served during a blackout with only emergency lights as ambience. Enjoy this piece knowing it was intended to be spoken with emphases one cannot garner fully from a quiet reading. And please share it this holiday season with a relative or friend who has done their duty serving their community or their country.
In October 1805, 214 years ago this month at the Battle of Trafalgar, Lord Horatio Nelson engaged the French and Spanish fleets. Outnumbered by seven ships of the line, the aircraft carrier of its time during the Napoleonic Wars, and far outnumbered in terms of manpower, Lord Nelson, with his sleeve sewn to his uniform after losing his arm seven years before in the Battle of the Nile, hoisted his signal flags and before dying on the deck of the HMS Victory later that day, won a decisive victory that set the stage for British domination of the seas and global hegemony for the next 125 years.
A print of Nelson’s signal flags hangs above the bar at my house. The famous words the flags spelled out were:
“ENGLAND EXPECTS EVERY MAN WILL DO HIS DUTY!”
History is painted with figures like Nelson, who took their duty seriously and made the ultimate sacrifices for the things they believed were right.
But what is duty?
A quick Google search will tell you that duty is a “moral or legal obligation; a responsibility,” which while that is true, duty is a word which can mean so much more than that.
When I volunteered with Cameron Begbies’ 3rd Marine Infantry Battle of Fallujah reunion, I saw men who exemplified duty. They were all around my age when they answered the call after 9/11. (I was 21 in 2001.) Those then-boys gave up their comfortable lives, their loves, their families – and went to an unknown land and put themselves in harm’s way to defend the things they held dear.
Many of these now-men at the reunion were missing limbs. Many weren’t in attendance because those young men never made it home. Mr. Begbie himself was wounded in combat there and ended up in Walter Reed, before coming home and choosing another path to serve his country, this time with a career in law enforcement.
Talk about dedication and a moral duty. We have several members of local law enforcement that served in the war as well, Matt Girton, Chris Crandall, and I’m sure others whose service I’m unaware of.
And that’s what our Amador County law enforcement community does every day; THEIR DUTY. To protect and serve our rural communities, to leave the comfort of their homes, and possibly, as the recent death of El Dorado County Sheriff Deputy Brian Ishmael exemplifies, not always come home. I cannot think of a group that deserves all of our respect and support more.
As business owners, my wife Meredith and I are able to use that platform to support things near and dear to our hearts such as youth sports, agricultural education, medical organizations ... (Because my wife is a nurse with a Masters degree in nursing, I always quip, “My friend in Montana has a shirt that says: ‘Behind every cowboy is a woman in town with a real job.’”) ... and obviously, as always we support local law enforcement organizations.
As president of a local fraternal organization, Amador Parlor No. 17 of the Native Sons of the Golden West, I have tried to work to make my community better. During my tenure as president, we have been able to host events supporting high school sports, local women’s organizations, Amador High scholarships, and of course, local law enforcement, including this year’s inaugural Amador County Deputy Sheriff’s K9 fundraiser.
Through the generosity of our organization and its members I was also able to travel to evacuation centers during the Camp Fire in Paradise and present a check from our Parlor to the Native Sons of that community to be dispersed to the people of Butte County.
While there, I toured the centers and some of the area and saw the devastation firsthand. Thanks to our members and Campbell Construction, my brother Jeff and his wife Jessie’s company, we were able to give $5,000 dollars that day to folks in real need in the form of gift cards for things they ACTUALLY needed, at that ACTUAL moment. That is one of the proudest moments of my life.
I have always tried to do everything in my power to support our local law enforcement community. Ironically, the first memory of my entire life is walking in a parade during one of my Uncle Bob Campbell’s Sheriff Campaigns.
I think sometimes when one turns on the news, law enforcement, and not criminals, are portrayed as the problem, and I simply don’t know how as a society, we have gotten to that point. I certainly do not feel that way and will always do everything in my power to support you guys and the thin blue line that has separated civilization from barbarism since the time of King Hammurabi in ancient Mesopotamia almost 4000 years ago.
Let us remember: you don’t have to be Lord Nelson, or General Mattis, or the President, or a law enforcement officer to feel a sense of duty.
All of us as Amadorians and Americans should wonder how they can make this community better every day. This sense of duty doesn’t have to come from the bow of a ship, or behind a rifle in a far-off desert land. Sometimes it can be as simple as volunteering with A-PAL on the kitty committee as my wife and I have done, or by picking up garbage on the side of Highway 49, or by cooking a meal at your church for those less fortunate. Ultimately, as Ghandi once postulated, “We should all be the change we wish to see in the world.”
In 1941, with the world in the throes of war, Winston Churchill came to America and addressed the people and congress, and in that speech he said: “The destiny of mankind is not decided by material computation. When great causes are on the move in the world, stirring all men’s souls, drawing them from their firesides, casting aside comfort, wealth and the pursuit of happiness in response to impulses at once awe-striking and irresistible, we learn that we are spirits, not animals, and that something is going on in space and time, and beyond space and time, which, whether we like it or not, spells duty.”
There’s that duty word again.
Thank you Amador County Peace Officers Association, law enforcement everywhere, the people of Amador County, and the American Legion Post No. 108 for hosting us. It is really special to come from an organization that my Uncle Bob, one of the most influential men of my life, who I miss every day, was a member of, and was awarded Peace Officer of the Year from.
A special congrats goes to Officer Zaragoza, whose life’s work protecting the people of California is finally being recognized – thank you very much!