Nebraska police officer, Connecticut firefighter  honored during national convention
2023 American Legion National Law Enforcement Officer of the Year, Crete, Neb., Police Department Patrol Officer Audrey Arbuckle speaks during the Day 2 of The American Legion 104th National Convention at the Charlotte Convention Center in Charlotte, N.C., on Wednesday, August 30. Photo by Jeric Wilhelmsen/The American Legion

Nebraska police officer, Connecticut firefighter honored during national convention

U.S. Navy veteran and Legionnaire John DeBisschop was presented the 2023 Firefighter of the Year Award on Aug. 30 during The American Legion National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. He’s been a member of the Naugatuck Fire Department since 1998, earning multiple certifications, including Fire Officer III and Incident Safety Officer. He’s also earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in Fire Science and a Bachelor of Applied Science degree in Fire Science Administration.

DeBisschop also serves as the department's fire extinguisher technician responsible for the inspection, maintenance and filling of the department's inventory of over 60 fire extinguishers of various types and sizes. He’s also the coordinator of the department's automated external defibrillator (AED) program, in which he not only maintains the department's 10 AEDs, but also an additional six AEDs located in various municipal buildings throughout town.

DeBisschop stays busy in the community as a member of Naugatuck Post 17, where he has served as a post and district commander and currently serves on the Department of Connecticut Scouting Committee. He is a 2006 graduate of the National American Legion College and now serves as a member of the National Internal Affairs Commission. His service to veterans is not limited to The American Legion. He also serves as the chairman of the Naugatuck Veterans Council and is a volunteer with the Boy Scouts of America.

After receiving his award, DeBisschop shared why the Legion’s Be the One initiative means so much to him. “One of the most notable similarities between veterans and first responders is our mental health and suicide crisis,” he said. “I worry about this now more than ever since one of my sons has followed in my footsteps, first into military service … and now as a firefighter paramedic.

“I’m encouraged to know that there are agencies helping to destigmatize this issue. And the Be the One helps to keep our first responders and fellow veterans becoming statistics.”

Audrey Arbuckle, a Senior Patrol Officer and Field Training Officer with the Crete, Neb., Police Department, was presented the Legion’s National Law Enforcement Officer of the Year Award. Arbuckle is responsible for guiding, directing and evaluating the department’s probationary officers for three months. She also serves as a Defensive Tactics/Use of Force Instructor, assisting in overseeing department-wide defensive tactics training which every officer uses in the field.

She’s also undergone FBI training and has headed the department’s Field Training program and also serves as a canine handler.

In June of 2022, she was awarded a Life-Saving Citation when she successfully applied a tourniquet to a teen whose major arm arteries and veins had been torn apart in an accident. Volunteer firefighters and paramedics arrived at the scene and were able to provide further emergency care before the teen was transporting to the emergency room. The next day, one of the paramedics, a veteran with combat medical experience, told city officials Arbuckle's quick thinking and immediate action likely saved the teen's life.

“I’m very humbled. I do believe that this award is a great representation of every single officer I work for, not only in Crete, but the state of Nebraska and across the United States.”