ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Seven members of the armed forces have been recognised at the national level for their distinguished service to country.
This is the highest number to be simultaneously honoured in the history of National Awards, National Security Minister Dr Errol Cort confirmed.
They were among a list of 28 national awardees who were celebrated during yesterday’s ceremonial parade at the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Grounds to mark Antigua & Barbuda’s 31st Independence anniversary.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) responsible for Operations, Henry Christian, was appointed Grand Cross of the Most Illustrious Order of Merit (GCM) for distinguished and exemplary service; while former police commissioners Truehart Smith and Delano Christopher and retired assistant commissioners Baldwin Joyce and Phillip Isaacs were bestowed Officer of the Most Illustrious Order of Merit for distinguished contribution to the Royal Police Force of Antigua & Barbuda (RPFAB).
Colonel Ivor Walker and Warrant Officer Class II Garfield Jacobs of the Antigua & Barbuda Defence Force (ABDF) were honoured with Commander of the Most Illustrious Order of Merit (CM) and Member of Most Illustrious Order of Merit (MM) respectively.
While the awardees are yet to receive their insignia, DCP Christian said he is happy to have been recognised for his dedication to the nation.
“It is my first National Award and it is a good feeling to be recognised for the 36 years service. Out of those years I spent 28 in the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) working scenes of crime,” Christian said.
With four more years to go before he reaches the retirement age of 60 years, Christian said the award serves as an inspiration to him and should do the same for his colleagues.
“I believe it is something other officers who have been giving dedicated service to the nation can look at and work towards especially at a time like this when some have found themselves before the court,” he added.
Over the last 14 months approximately 10 police officers have had brushes with the law, some have been convicted, while others are still awaiting trial for matters ranging from drug possession to murder.
Retired commissioner Truehart Smith is just as pleased over his award as his former colleague Christian.
“I have no idea who recommended me, but whoever it is, I want to thank whether person or persons for recognising me for the hard work I’ve done in this country,” the 69-year-old told OBSERVER Media yesterday.
Smith joined the forced in 1962 when it was the Antigua, Montserrat and British Virgin Island Police and left in 2003, following some controversy.
Smith said the Police Service Commission (PSC) suspended him in 2002 while he was commissioner but was ordered reinstated, status quo, in 2003 after the Civil Service Appeal Board cleared him of alleged wrongdoing.
The Barbudan born said he reached the age of retirement that same year and left with his pride intact. Just around that same time he was awarded the Queen’s Police Medal for his excellent work.
During his tenure, Smith spent 28 years working in CID. He had started there as a constable but left that department as the sergeant in charge.
Meantime, Christopher, the first and only female to lead a police force in Antigua & Barbuda, accepted her award with humility and pride.
“I know I’ve worked hard for the 39 years I’ve been in the force and I did the best I could with what I had and according to law. I am happy and thankful to whomever it is that nominated me,” she said.
Christopher was controversially removed from the helm of the force in 2007 for allegedly being unable to manage the organisation.
However, she has long moved on from that period of her life and later worked as the consultant to the Gender Affairs Minister on issues of domestic violence for a short period.
She too was a recipient of the Queen’s Police Medal some years ago as well as a medal for long service and good conduct.
Phillip Isaacs, who joined the force in 1968 and left in 2006, retired at 64 years old as Assistant Commissioner of Police.
Retired fire chief and assistant commissioner of police Joyce was not here to receive his award yesterday. But his wife Davina Joyce was. She told this reporter her husband is “elated” over the recognition.
Joyce served the force for over 30 years and retired in 2009. He later migrated to Botswana and is currently chief comptroller of fire service there.
“I feel great he’s done well and has been recognised for his good work,” Davina Joyce said.
The two awarded defence force servicemen – Colonel Walker and Warrant Officer Jacobs -couldn’t hide their joy yesterday when their names were called as awardees.
The colonel said, “I am actually grateful the Lord God is pleased to allow my country to recognise me. I suppose when you give service, you don’t really think about it. But, it is always good to be recognised. It’s actually a very proud moment for me.”
He expressed gratitude to wife of 26 years Janete Walker.
This is Col. Walker’s first national honour and he adds them to military awards for meritorious service and general service.
With 32 years in the ABDF, he said there are many hallmarks of his career and chief among them was when he served in Grenada as part of a peace mission during the intervention there in 1982.
Warrant Officer Jacobs said the years of service he gave to the force – most of which he spent training others – got him his award.
“I am feeling so wonderful. There are no two words to describe how I’m feeling other than to say, Thank God,” he said.
With 31 years in the force, Jacobs, 54, said he is six years above the ABDF retirement age but will continue to serve “as long as they want me”.
National Security Minister Dr Errol Cort has since expressed delight that so many officers have been awarded – which would include the recent knighthood of the ABDF Commander in Chief Sir Trevor Thomas.
“I am very pleased that this level of recognition has been given to our officers. When persons put their lives on the line to defend and protect the citizens and residents of this country, it is only right that due recognition is given to them.
“This will no doubt serve as an encouragement for all other law enforcement officers to give their best to the nation of Antigua & Barbuda,” he told OBSERVER Media.
(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)