Dozens of Costa Mesa police officers and firefighters gathered in front of the police station Tuesday to welcome home one of their own who returned to the city after a one-year tour of duty in Afghanistan.
Officer Jon Smith stood with Police Chief Tom Gazsi and Community Service Specialist Jeanette Chervony in front of a ficus as he snipped away the yellow ribbon that hugged the tree. The department placed the ribbon there in May for Armed Forces Day as a reminder that it had an Army reservist serving in the Middle East.
An eight-year member of the force, Smith grew up in Costa Mesa and said after 9/11 that he felt compelled to serve, and began taking criminal justice courses in college.
"I'm honored to be back in Costa Mesa, I'm honored to be able to serve overseas," Smith, a corporal in the military, told the crowd.
Chervony, a 26-year veteran of the department, had limited contact with Smith while he was in the department because their jobs rarely intersected, but once he was serving in the Middle East, Chervony said she felt moved to send him care packages filled with notes, photos and reminders from home, like batteries and Starbucks iced coffee.
When Chervony was 13 months old her father died while serving in Vietnam, and as a gold star daughter, she wanted to "let the public know that our officers serve not only here, [but] abroad."
"I wanted to make sure Jon knew we supported him," she said.
"It feels really good to know you have that support," Smith said.
While in Afghanistan, Smith assessed schools, police departments and hospitals while working with principals, village elders, doctors and government officials.
His service, Gazsi said, typifies those on the Costa Mesa police force.
"What you'll find is most of our folks serve not only selflessly in Costa Mesa, but in their home communities," he said. "There's great continuity of heart and service in their lives."