Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee is joined by Jen Lechowich, the widow of Ivan Lechowich, who was killed in Afghanistan in September of 2010, and her daughter, Natalie, along with Ivan’s parents, Rick and Gina Lechowich during a recently held Congregational Commendation ceremony honoring the sheriff for his support of the nation’s fallen heroes and their families.
“As you know, there is no ‘I’ in ‘team,’ so I accept this award in behalf of the department,” said Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee during a surprise ceremony held last month in his honor at the Sheriff’s Operations Center Annex newsroom in Ybor City.
Gee’s comments came moments after Congressman Gus Bilirakis (Republican-Palm Harbor) presented the sheriff with a congressional commendation for his efforts to make sure that the fallen heroes and their families receive support.
“I wanted to make sure that every fallen hero who comes home to Hillsborough County receives an honor escort,” Gee said.
During escorts, which are videotaped, members of the community can join hundreds alongside the escort route and show their support by saluting the fallen solider, waving the flag and saying thanks.
Gee received words of commendation from Jen Lechowich, the widow of Ivan Lechowich, who was killed in Afghanistan in September of 2010, and Ivan’s parents, Rick and Gina Lechowich, as well as representatives of the Bayshore Patriots, Lutz Patriots and the Troop Support Alliance.
In front of a roomful of Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office deputies, reporters and guests, Rick Lechowich addressed Gee and thanked the department for all of their support. He also commended the sheriff for helping the family through their time of sorrow.
“Thank you for the opportunity to say how special what you do truly is,” Rick said. “The sheriff’s department was an indisputable support to our family. It was incredibly important.”
Since 2009, area residents have seen 12 honor escorts conducted by the sheriff’s office as the result of Gee’s order that any fallen hero who comes home to Hillsborough County is provided with an honor escort to any destination as a show of support and to allow everyone the opportunity to line the escort route and pay their respects.
Gee explained that providing the fallen hero escort was the result of area residents inquiring as to what they could do to recognize the sacrifices of the soldiers and their families. “The answer is: come out and be part of the honor escort,” he said.