Milwaukie cop wins National American Legion award
Milwaukie Police Officer Bradley K. Walther has been named the Western Regional Law Enforcement Officer of the Year by the National American Legion.
Walther joined Eric Schenk of Milwaukie High School and Milwaukie American Legion Post 180 Commander Michael B. Wilson in winning statewide awards. Walthers was named the statewide officer of the year by the Oregon Department of the American Legion, which named Schenk the Teacher of the Year and Wilson the Legionnaire of the Year.
Walther is a 12-year Marine veteran who joined the service in 1985, serving in Desert Storm as a communication chief. He joined the Milwaukie Police Department in 2011 and has since been recognized for his exceptional work ethic, along with his ability to enforce the law with fairness and compassion.
Walther was instrumental in establishing the Corporal Diffie Veterans Fund to assist veterans in dire need of emergency assistance as a joint project between the police department and the American Legion Post. He wanted the Post and MPD to join together to promote and initiate a program helping veterans found within the Milwaukie city limits, day or night.
In 2018, Walther met Sam Diffie, a fellow Marine who was significantly injured on his second tour of duty in Afghanistan. Like many veterans with significant medical disabilities, Diffie struggled with substance abuse.
Milwaukie Sgt. Robbie Graves said Walther "worked tirelessly" with Diffie over the next several months, often on the police officer's days off, to take Diffie to the hospital, court or work.
"Although Sam's life had its obstacles and challenges, the last several months of his life were significantly and noticeably better because of the compassion and kindness of a single police officer," Graves said. "Not only did he gain a friend, but more importantly, a friend that gave him hope and a sense of value. A friend that understood him and reached out with a nonjudgmental hand to lift him up from the battlefield of life."
Walther began to push for a veteran resource team prior to Diffie's death of natural causes in 2019, recognizing all the gaps in veterans services. Post 180 spokesman Jerry Craig said that prior to the establishment of the fund supported by the community fundraising, police officers throughout the county spent their own money on many occasions to facilitate getting a person in need a hot meal or a place to warm up for a few hours.
In 2014, Walther received the Milwaukie Police Department's Meritorious Service Award for saving a citizen's life by dropping to his knees in the mud to perform CPR on someone experiencing cardiac arrest. He was chosen by his peers in 2017 as MPD's "Officer of the Year" for being a solid peer and mentor to new officers.
"Officer Walther continues to set the example, checking out transient camps, talking to veterans, treating each person with dignity and respect ... and if the person is a veteran, builds a bridge offering advice and how to access services specific to the veteran," Craig said.
Schenk, who teaches English at MHS, has been an inspiration to his students by encouraging them to appreciate U.S. history through classes in American literature. He has been working with the Milwaukie American Legion Post 180 for several years.
Schenk's class "Images of War in Literature" centers on the U.S. conflicts. During the class, members of Post 180 to led discussions with his students on their military experiences and the importance of a strong, well-trained military.
"These classes include students asking questions of veterans and veterans sharing their combat and non-combat experiences, what led them to [serve] in the military and how they benefited by their military experience," Craig said. "Mr. Schenk stresses the importance of patriotism and patriotic service to our country."
Wilson has been commander of Milwaukie's American Legion Post 180 for the past four years. He conducts Post meetings, creates bimonthly newsletters, promotes community service and works with Milwaukie citizens and business owners to organize regular blood drives.
Wilson volunteers for Clackamas County Social Services, is a member of the Post 180 Honor Guard and has worked as a leader in the Young Marines organization. He personally prepares breakfasts every other Sunday and tacos every other week at the Post. He schedules special events like Memorial Day, Easter, Veterans Day and Thanksgiving meals. His wife, Patricia, who is a member of the Unit 180 Auxiliary, is very supportive at these events and Post activities.
"Mike has been instrumental in getting the Post reopened under the COVID-19 restrictions and getting the Post back to full operations and support of veterans and the community," Craig said.
For more information, go to alpost180.org or visit 2146 S.E. Monroe St., Milwaukie.
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