ROGERSVILLE — Cherokee High School has honored local police officers with an appreciation breakfast for the past several years, but Tuesday’s event seemed more significant in light of the tragic death last week of Sullivan County Deputy Steven Hinkle.
Principal Thomas Floyd said the annual event is an opportunity to say thanks to local law enforcement and to show appreciation for everything they do in the community — a sentiment that needs to be expressed now more than ever.
“What a traumatic time that’s been for Sullivan County and really for the law enforcement community,” Floyd said. “I think you’ve seen, and has been reported, that is an event that impacted Sullivan County and all the surrounding law enforcement agencies. You see almost like a brotherhood or fraternity/sorority type setting where everybody comes together to mourn.”
Floyd added, “I hope they see that we want to honor their service, they see and feel our heartfelt thanks for what they do. Schools now more than ever are hand-in-hand with law enforcement. Regretfully, the society we live in has become more dangerous. These folks are the first line of defense for our students. There’s nothing more important in schools than safety. We can talk about test scores, we can talk about ACTs, but if we don’t have safety as our paramount, we really don’t have anything.”
Tuesday’s breakfast was held in the Cherokee library and was attended mostly by officers from the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office and Rogersville Police Department, although there was one representative from the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office.
Teacher/coach Jason Lawson led the invocation prior to the breakfast, and the Cherokee NJROTC served as ushers and an honor guard.
The food was donated by Food City, Big H BBQ, Sonic, Hardee’s, O’Henry’s, Southside Restaurant, McDonald’s, Walmart, Little Caesar’s, and Pal’s.
Officers had their choice of a variety of biscuits, gravy, pastries, fruit, juice, coffee, breakfast burritos and pizza. Doggy bags were sent to the HCSO and jail for the officers who weren’t able to attend.
Event founder Susie Hilton, who is the school’s executive secretary, said the sponsors who provided food gladly contribute without hesitation because the community stands behind its officers.
“There’s just a good meaning behind it all,” Hilton said.
“These officers have done so much for us on the streets, as well as the students in the school, and I invited Sullivan County. I felt like with the tragedy they went through, we need to bring them in with us. That could have been us, and we don’t want that to ever happen to us.”