By Shandi Dix, Fort Riley Public AffairsJune 9, 2011
FORT RILEY, Kan. " Law enforcement officers joined forces to support this year’s Special Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run June 2.
Many officers participating were no strangers to the program or the event.
As a 2010 U.S. Military Academy graduate, 2nd Lt. Nadi Kassim, military intelligence officer, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, assisted with the Special Olympics games at West Point. Kassim was among about 1,000 cadets who assisted with the games.
“Just to see the athletes and how much hard work they put in to getting into those games and being able to compete and to win, seeing how happy they are, it’s really priceless,” he said. “It shows if you put a little bit of effort in what you can actually accomplish and how you can motivate and help people.”
Now as the officer in charge for borrowed military manpower detailed out to the Directorate of Emergency Services, Kassim participated for the first time in the torch run at Fort Riley. He represented the officers and said he hoped he provided some motivation to the Soldiers.
Watching his mother volunteer with the Special Olympics as a young man, Lt. Col. Michael Mathews, commander, 97th Military Police Battalion, also said he was excited to participate once again in the torch run.
“I probably did this torch run about three times in the early 1990s when I was a lieutenant here at Fort Riley in the MP battalion, so it’s nice to come back and get back to some of the old traditions as the battalion commander,” he said. “It’s just neat to carry those traditions on.”
Mathews said he thought it was “pretty cool” to be involved with the Special Olympics alongside his mom and to go to the competitions.
“It always brings a tear to your eye when you see people so happy with small victories,” Mathews said. “More than that, I know there are at least a dozen Special Olympians who are Family members of Soldiers stationed here at Fort Riley that compete and participate in these local chapters of the Special Olympics.”
Currently 20 athletes are involved in the Junction City Pacesetters Special Olympics team.
The Torch Run is an annual event to raise money and awareness across the nation about Special Olympics, which began in 1981 in Wichita, Kan.
“It’s obviously an opportunity to support a great cause,” Mathews said.
Participating in the Torch Run also is an opportunity for the DES, 97th MP Bn., Junction City Police Department and Geary County Sheriff’s Office to demonstrate their partnership.
“We have a great partnership and work extremely close together and well together,” Mathews said.
Junction City Police Officer Matt Paquette has been involved in the torch run for three years as a runner and the last two years as the coordinator for Geary County.
“In law enforcement, we’re all one community, regardless if military or civilian law enforcement, we’re all one happy Family,” he said. “It’s just our way of helping to join together as a Family and do something for the good.”
Head coach for the Junction City Pacesetters, John Hagerty, was preparing his team for the final leg of the Kansas run, which took place June 3 in Wichita, where 17 of the 20 athletes participated in the 41st annual Summer Games.
Hagerty participated in his first torch run as a military police officer in 1989. He began volunteering with the Junction City Pacesetters in 1995, where he served as the assistant coach until becoming head coach a few years ago.
For more information about the Special Olympics in Kansas, visit www.ksso.org.