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American Legion post recognizes local first responders, members

Jackson Police Officer Michael Shy, seen on right with American Legion Commander Rick Sparks, was recognized by American Legion Post 158. Photo by Jay Forness

The American Legion Altenthal-Joerns Post 158 in Jackson celebrated its annual birthday banquet on March 16, honoring local first responders and longtime members.

Officer Michael Shy was recognized for his work with the Jackson Police Department. Shy has been with the JPD since 2020 and has joined the department’s special response team. Over the past year, Shy conducted 225 traffic stops, responded to 588 calls for service, made 22 arrests and took 98 reports.

“Officer Shy has continued to demonstrate his value as an officer for the Jackson Police Department and to the law enforcement community,” Lt. Jason Wilhelm said. “We, the Jackson Police Department, look forward to seeing what is in store for Officer Shy’s future within the City of Jackson. I feel thatwe are lucky to have him on our force.”

Jackson Fire Rescue Captain Robbie Grief was recognized for his work with the city’s fire department. Grief was unable to attend the event, but Jackson Fire Chief Jason Mouser said he was absent for one of the reasons he was given this award.

Mouser said when he isn’t on a 24-hour shift, Grief is usually training firefighters somewhere else. Grief is one of the lead instructors for the West Kentucky Community and Technical College, as well as teaching certification classes for the Missouri Division of Fire Safety.

“He is so instrumental in fire training, not only in the State of Missouri but the State of Kentucky,” Mouser said. Grief originally worked for Jackson Fire Rescue from 2001 to 2007. He left the area to take care of family and returned to Jackson in 2015.

Grief has worked as a captain and shift supervisor since 2016. Mouser said Grief has all but one of Missouri’s firefighter state certifications. Mouser said the final certification was first offered six months ago, and Grief is scheduled to earn that certification this month.

Lt. Ed Curtis was recognized for his work with the Cape Girardeau County Sheriff’s Office. Curtis has served at the Sheriff’s Office for the past 21 years and is currently serving as the commander of the patrol division. He also serves as the department’s firearm instructor and is an instructor with Southeast Missouri State University’s Law Enforcement Academy.

Jail Administrator Richard Rushin spoke about Curtis’ work with the crisis intervention team (CIT). “They work with the Community Counseling Center and teach officers on the street and in the jail on how to deal with people who are having mental health issues,” Rushin said.

Rushin said Curtis has worked with the Community Counseling Center to start a pilot program called Navigator that added a professional counselor in the jail. “We are touching lives in a way where hopefully people can make a good life for themselves and won’t end up back in our jail.”

“I feel really fortunate that I get to serve the community that I do,” Curtis said. “The 20 years that I’ve done this have been unparalleled. The community that I work for absolutely supports first responders and supports law enforcement.”

American Legion member Mike Hess was awarded the Legion Merit Member award. Hess, who took over running the American Legion’s clubroom last fall, was unable to attend the banquet.

Commander Rick Sparks said Hess has done a lot of work cleaning and improving the clubroom. “Mike has gone above and beyond,” Sparks said. “He’s spent countless hours down there.”

Charles P. Hutson Jr., Fredric J. Schwartz, Dale W. Thompson, Doug Randol, Charles F. Pruitt, Thomas R. Nations and George L. Gohn were recognized for 50 years of continuous membership in the American Legion, and Weldon L. Runnels was recognized for 60 years of continuous membership in the American Legion. Hutson was the only member recognized for continuous membership in attendance.

American Legion Department of Missouri Commander Rose Noonan was the banquet’s speaker. Noonan spoke about the Legion’s key achievements over the past year including passing the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring Our PACT Act and working to prevent suicides among veterans.

Jay Forness covers education, county government and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Jackson for the past five years. He can be reached at

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