Civilians and soldiers in Douglas County
Serving country, community, county
They served their country as airmen, sailors, marines and soldiers in the U.S. Armed Forces. Now, they’re serving their community and county.
A new Blue Blotter survey finds more than one-quarter of sworn officers in the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO) are veterans. Soldiers account for 28-percent of the commissioned officers and 18-percent of the entire staff.
Joel White’s heart bleeds blue as a deputy in investigations and a U.S. Marine.
“I believe in strong service to your community and that’s what I teach my kids,” Deputy White says. “I have a huge sense of community, I love helping people. I don’t do it for pay, I do it to help people and I’ll do it for the rest of my life. It’s just who I am.”
For five years in the mid 1990’s, the marine hot-refueled Cobras and Huey helicopters carrying soldiers to the front lines in the desert and jungles in Okinawa. As soon as White left the military, he joined the sheriff’s office.
“I loved the comradery in the U.S. Marines Corp, but now I have the best job on the planet. I’m blessed every day,” said Deputy White, who chases down drug dealers with the Drug Enforcement Agency and disarms explosives with the bomb squad.
OORAH! Army Outnumbers Marines
According to the survey, most DCSO employees are U. S. Army (27), while U.S. Marines rank second (22) and the U.S. Air Force comes in third (18). There are at least 15 U.S. Navy sailors and at least one member of the U.S. Coast Guard.
“Well,” joked Lt. Tommy Barrella, former Marine, “we could have 50 Army and two Marines and they’d still be outnumbered.”
With a smile, sailor and Deputy John Compton reminds Barrella that Marines fall under the U.S. Navy hierarchy, making sailors the toughest. The jokes go back and forth, but in times of trouble, they stand together in the DCSO.
Barrella wanted to be a cop when he was 18, but he couldn’t get in the police academy until he was 21. So, he joined the Marines and became a military police officer. He says that prepared him for his job today as head of the DCSO bomb squad and South Metro Drug Task Force.
Wired to Serve
The 17th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, said service members are “wired to serve.” After they leave the military, most soldiers want to protect their family, friends and neighbors.
“They’re a part of the armed forces of the United States, doing the nation’s bidding, wherever that takes them and regardless of the personal risks and the sacrifices that we ask of them and their families,” General Martin E. Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff recently said.
There’s no doubt civilian records clerk George Schnurle is wired to serve. In the late 1950’s, he held the Marines’ most honored and valuable position—a drill instructor. Even at 75 years of age, the take-no-prisoners Marine refuses to quit.
“I’m a glutton for punishment, but I love it,” Schnurle said. “You stay young and alive by working around people and having fun.”
It must be fun, because Patrol Deputy Derek Castellano is still serving in the US Marine Air Control Squadron. He was recently deployed for a state emergency mission to the Waldo Canyon Fire.
“I enjoy the group of airmen who I serve with. They’ve been a part of my family and I enjoy spending time with them,” Deputy Castellano said. “Plus, our country is at war and I feel it’s my responsibility to continue serving during times of war.”
“It’s a mindset that going out there and doing your part makes you who you are. Staying in the military reserve is a way to go out and apply your training and to keep the fight away from our homes,” Compton said. “Being a reservist has made me a better person and along the way also made me a better Deputy.”
It’s a win-win situation. Compton says he uses training provided by the Navy at the Sheriff’s office and uses skills taught by DCSO to work with fellow reservists.
Others agree that working full time and serving can be tough.
“They have to be proficient at two jobs and be ready to deploy without notice,” Deputy Castellano said. “I’m very thankful that the Sheriff’s office is very accommodating to my military duties, they support me by giving paid days for military leave each year and they also subsidize my pay in the event I get deployed.”
In the DCSO, at least eight employees are still serving in the reserves or the Colorado National Guard.
“Giving back is the life blood of the National Guard. It’s only logical to me that members would seek fulltime or follow-on careers in a community support capacity,” Maj. Gen. H. Michael Edwards, Adjutant General of Colorado, told the Blue Blotter.
“National Guard members are trained first to be Soldiers and Airmen who support a federal combat mission. It’s those skills that are used to save lives and prevent suffering in the homeland. Their commitment to community, state and nation set them apart from others. They are always ready, always there.”
In 2011, Sheriff David A. Weaver started a military house watch program where deputies patrol the homes of military veterans across Douglas County and check-in with their families while the soldiers are deployed. Sheriff Weaver says he has high regard for people who give to their country.
“Citizens who are willing make the ultimate sacrifice for all of us are the back bone of this wonderful country and we all owe them a debt of gratitude,” Sheriff Weaver said. “I challenge everyone to thank those that have and continue to serve this great country of ours.”
In the military house watch program, some deputies are actually helping other deputies away on tours of duty.
“We would not be able complete our tasks without them. It’s a great comfort to know that our families are taken care of while we’re away,” Deputy Compton said.
Despite the hardships, the sacrifices, the suffering that comes with war, most soldiers wouldn’t have it any other way. No regrets. The military taught them discipline and for some, gave them family.
Deputy Frank “Gunner” Alston joined the Marines because he wanted to be part of something. He was raised in an orphanage in Danville, Virginia. Alston first met his mom and grandparents at age 15.
He worked three jobs and lived on his own. All that changed when he heard a commercial, stopped at a local recruiter and joined the Marines.
“I was tired of working and not having a sense of belonging,” Alston said, an infantry Marine who worked as a Gunnery Sergeant. “The leadership that was instilled in me guides the way I live my life. I have always been a protector.”
After retiring as an Infantry Weapons Officer, Alston worked at Coca Cola repairing vending machines. Once again, he felt alone. So, he applied at DCSO as a specialist and found a new family.
“I’m still in uniform and still serving,” Alston said. “I do miss the Marines…I wish only to do it again. I’d love to have the 20/20 hindsight. But being with DCSO fills part of the void.”
Look at old pictures and search through an interactive workbook for DCSO employees, departments and military service branches by going to the Blue Blotter link below.
Want to talk about or share this BLUE BLOTTER story? Let us know what you think on our Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/DouglasCountySheriff