By Emma Kirkemier, Staff Correspondent
Two officers were recognized on June 4 for their work with local students through the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program.
Retired Captain Jerry Bone of the Attalla Police Department received the Daryl Gates Lifetime Achievement award in recognition of his years of commitment to DARE.
The Alabama DARE Officer of the Year award went to Lieutenant Justin Plunkett of the Etowah County Sheriff’s Office.
Numerous friends, family members, coworkers, DARE volunteers and county officials attended the ceremony in support of the officers.
“I’ve been doing DARE (for) 21 years now, and I know what it means to me,” said State DARE Coordinator and Montgomery County Deputy Corporal Kofee Anderson. “I’ve seen pictures, and I’ve read letters, and I’ve gotten to know Jay (Bone) without even talking to Jay. I know what it means to him.”
Anderson read Bone’s nomination for lifetime achievement award, which was written and submitted by DARE volunteer Kelly Prickett.
“Jerry Bone is the picture of selfless service to one’s community,” Prickett wrote. “He has spent his entire life giving of his time and resources to the children and the city of Attalla.
Captain Bone started a DARE program for the Attalla police department in 1993, and I’m a lifelong product of the decision he made.”
According to Prickett, Bone “would work tirelessly to secure donations” each year to ensure that DARE camp was held and that it was accessible to all students who wanted to go.
When he was invited to accept his award, Bone thanked his audience.
“I just want to thank everybody that’s here today,” Bone said. “I’m honored, really honored. I just want to let you guys know that DARE was my life.”
He specifically asked Prickett and DARE volunteer Stephanie Jordan to join him in being recognized, saying they had “been with me through it all.”
Bone also gave credit to all the officers and volunteers that had taught DARE and helped with DARE camp.
“Not only am I accepting this award for myself, but I’m accepting it for everybody in this room, too,” he said. “You’ve all been such a big part of continuing this, and I love you all.”
Anderson reminded the room, however, that they still had another DARE officer to recognize.
“Justin, would you come on up?” Anderson said. “Now, the hardest part to do was trying to plan everything for Captain Bone with a person that I’m going to present an award to also, my Alabama DARE officer of the year. He’s done so much over the years.”
Unlike Bone’s, Plunkett’s award remained a surprise to him.
“I did not know that was coming,” Plunkett said. “I had seen my wife coming through the door, and I thought, ‘Well, she’s got to be at work.’ I was not expecting this at all.
“When I started with the sheriff, when he was a chief at Rainbow City, we were looking at getting the DARE program back in Gadsden.”
Plunkett explained that though the DARE certification process was rigorous, he “enjoyed time in the classroom” once he was able to start teaching.
Plunkett noted that one rewarding part of his work came from DARE camp.
“At our DARE camp … there was a kid come up to me when we had our fatal vision course,” Plunkett said. “He said, ‘If this is what it’s like to drink and drive, then I don’t want to do it.’ Just with one child, one student, I know I made a difference in him. I thought, ‘If I could just make a difference in one, then I know I’ve done my job.’”
Etowah County Sheriff Jonathon Horton commended Plunkett for his work, saying that he “helped and was very instrumental” in expanding the DARE program in Etowah County.
“I can’t think of anything more to celebrate than what Jay has done across his life, what Justin and the county have been able to do with DARE here in Etowah County,” Horton said.
Horton added that Etowah County now has 19 school resource officers teaching DARE across 22 middle and elementary schools. He also pointed out that “32–44 percent of those who graduate from fifth-grade DARE are less likely to use alcohol and drugs.”