Police officers, firefighters honored for their duty
Jan. 25, 2014 at 10:01 p.m.
Updated Jan. 25, 2014 at 7:26 p.m.
There are only two jobs that Sgt. Herschel Buck said he'd rather do than be a police officer: drive race cars or fly fighter jets.
"It's the only thing as cool," he laughed.
Buck has been with the Victoria Police Department going on 13 years, and Thursday, he was honored with the Officer of the Year award at the third annual Public Safety Banquet for police and firefighters. Chief J.J. Craig said he was an obvious choice because Buck is the type of officer who will go the distance for the department.
Traffic safety took a big loss last year when three officers, including the unit's sergeant, left the department. Despite already having a full plate of responsibilities as a traffic officer, trainer and head of various projects, Buck stepped in as interim head of the unit.
"Nothing he was doing was put aside," Craig said. "He stepped up in a time when I needed him and the organization needed him most.
"That, to me, just put him up above the bar in terms of recognition."
The American Legion also honored Buck as its 2013 Policeman of the Year.
Buck said it's humbling to be recognized by his peers as Officer of the Year.
"I don't look at it as doing anything different as what other folks at the department do," he said. "I had extra stuff to do, but that's not any different than the other patrol guys who are stepping up because we're busy and short staffed."
In December, Craig reported that the police department was short 13 officers.
Buck said he felt the weight of the vacancies - as did other officers - by working more and being on call more often, but he said when a person is passionate about the job, stuff like that doesn't matter.
"To be a police officer, there is an inherent part of you - it's about getting the job done," he said. "There are people depending on you, and I don't know any of us to ever get down about doing some extra work."
At the banquet, which was Thursday at the Victoria Community Center, several first responders with the police and fire department also were honored for their valor, including the three police officers who were the first on the scene of a missing child report. The officers found the child unconscious in the Guadalupe River.
Officers Robert Dial, Timothy Ramirez and Adam Garcia received the Police Commendation award.
Although unsuccessful in saving the child's life, Craig said the officers' efficient response to the dire situation demonstrates an ability to handle an "emotional and high-stress environment."
Buck, who always wanted to be a first responder - although his dream as a child was to be a firefighter, which he was for several years in Round Rock - said it's moments like those that solidify an officer's calling.
"It's not a money job," he said. "It's just about the job itself. To be a police officer or a fireman, you have to want to do it and have a passion for it because of the things we see on a daily basis."