By Mary O’KEEFE
Former CV Sheriff Sergeant Bill Hutton was elected Commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart on Aug. 13. He was with law enforcement for over 30 years and served with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Dept. from 1969 to his retirement in 2003. He was at the Crescenta Valley Sheriff’s Station from 1989 to 1999, according to a press release from LASD.
“The CV Station was in a neighborhood setting which was unusual,” he said of his time at CV.
Because of the setting deputies worked to blend in with the community.
“It was a friendly atmosphere,” he said. “Absolutely wonderful. I enjoyed working with community members.”
Hutton, who now lives in Thousand Oaks, served as a sergeant at the station. Throughout his career he worked in every major division including narcotics. He was awarded the Medal for Bravery and the Distinguished Service Award for saving the life of a fellow deputy.
“I was working the Malibu Station. A [member of the] Hell’s Angels had been arrested the night before for being under the influence of a narcotic,” Hutton recalled.
The next morning Hutton arrived at the station where he was working as a patrol sergeant. The Hell’s Angel prisoner had been complaining of chest pains and needed to be taken to the hospital. Hutton was asked by the jailer to help transport the man.
“He was 6’3” and about 300 pounds,” Hutton said. “The doctor [at the hospital] requested that we take [the prisoner] handcuffs off. We did. He was then hooked up to an EKG machine.”
It was at this point when the man jumped up and “ripped the gun” from the jailer’s holster. The prisoner went to pull the trigger.
“I put my finger between the trigger and the trigger guard,” Hutton said. That action broke Hutton’s finger but stopped the man from firing the weapon.
“He had it pointed at the [deputy’s] head,” Hutton said.
Knowing what to do and having the wherewithal to react is something Hutton had learned not only in his LASD training but the military training he had received before heading to Vietnam.
He enlisted and served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1965 to 1969. While there he was wounded three times.
“That’s why I failed track in high school,” he joked. “I can’t run very quickly.”
The first time he was wounded was with mortar rounds.
“That time they bandaged me and sent me back,” he said.
The second time the helicopter he was in was hit and he suffered internal injuries. The third time he was hit with shrapnel. That time he was sent home.
He has been a member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart since 1997. While in the organization he has held leadership positions locally, regionally and now as National Commander.
The Purple Heart is awarded to members of the U.S. armed forces who are wounded by an instrument of war in the hands of the enemy, and posthumously to the next of kin in the name of those who are killed in action or die of wounds received in action. The Military Order of the Purple Heart is an organization comprised exclusively of Purple Heart recipients. Like the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, the organization works to help veterans and their families.
“We have 45,000 members,” Hutton said. “We say we don’t talk about the war. It is not about the war, but the warrior.”
As commander, Hutton will testify before Congress on issues important to veterans. The primary issues presently are traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress disorder.
In addition to these two medical issues, the organization is also concerned with a growing number of homeless and unemployed veterans.
“The nation has 9% unemployment but it is 12.4% with veterans,” Hutton said.
He added that suicides are also on the rise with veterans. The organization works tirelessly toward finding solutions for veteran problems. In the past fiscal year they received 17,000 approved claims from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“That [equaled to] $265 million this year,” Hutton said. Hutton is looking forward to meeting with Congress as Commander and continuing the efforts to help his fellow veterans.