Area law-enforcement personnel and first responders, many of whom spend their days and nights addressing the safety and needs of others, relaxed Thursday at the 25th annual Law Enforcement Appreciation Cookout.
About 2,000 people from around the state gathered in Tattnall County to share a meal and enjoy an evening of camaraderie.
The event, originally created to honor only those in law enforcement, has evolved into a celebration of first responders, firefighters, military members, correctional officers and others who work in public safety. This year, several political leaders made appearances at the cookout, during which former Long County Sheriff Cecil Nobles, who passed away earlier this year, was honored.
Gov. Nathan Deal gave the keynote address, expressing gratitude to those in attendance for their service and to organizer and host Wayne Dasher. Deal also said he was thankful to both Dasher and Nobles, the cookout’s original founders, for starting the tradition.
3rd Infantry Division Commander Maj. Gen. Robert “Abe” Abrams took the microphone after Deal and expressed his appreciation for the night’s honorees. He also thanked former military members for their service and praised the local community’s support for Fort Stewart.
“At Fort Stewart, we live in an environment where we get unconditional support — unconditional from our neighbors, from the entire coastal Georgia area and as far as you can stretch. And so, tonight, I take the opportunity to thank you, because most of you come from this area. Thanks for your unconditional support for our soldiers and our families,” Abrams said.
Long County Sheriff Craig Nobles said the cookout provides attendees with an opportunity to catch up and kick back.
“It’s a bonding opportunity for all of us — a time to come together and see friends we haven’t seen in a while,” he said. “When I come here, I see people from all over the state, and we all have a good time and catch up with each other.”
Walthourville Police Department Officer Brandon Calhoun said the event also allows those present to network and make new acquaintances.
“All of the law enforcement agencies in the area come out for the cookout. In addition to having a good time, we meet other people and develop relationships that can help us perform our jobs better,” he said.
Investigator Al Cato, who has been with the Hinesville Police Department for 31 years, said, “It’s a good time. You come here, you have fun and you also make some more contacts. All in all, it’s good for everyone involved.”
Others speaking at the cookout included 12th District Congressman John Barrow, Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler, Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black, Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp and Georgia Chief Justice Carol Hunstein.
WTOC-TV news anchor Sonny Dixon emceed the event.