BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — Community members gathered in Blountville on Friday to celebrate outstanding officers and honor those who have fallen in the line of duty during an annual “Service & Protection Awards” ceremony.

The ceremony was held at the Branch House Family Justice Center and hosted in partnership with the 2nd Judicial District Attorney General’s Office. The event aims to honor local fallen officers each year and celebrate those who go above and beyond to help end the cycle of domestic violence.

Sullivan County’s District Attorney Barry Staubus was at the ceremony to show his gratitude to law enforcement members who help domestic violence victims in any way.

“It’s a privilege and a blessing to see such dedicated people being recognized by not only their community but a larger community for what they do and how hard that task is to perform,” he said.

Kingsport Police Detective Kellen Steele was given the Mark Vance Award this year. The award “honors exceptional service by a member of law enforcement for their efforts in the prosecution of domestic violence cases,” according to a release from Branch House. It’s named after Mark Vance, a Bristol, Tennessee (BTPD) police officer who was killed in the line of duty in 2004 while responding to a domestic disturbance.

Nicolas Fugate; Photo: WJHL

Another award given out was the Steve Hinkle Award, which was named after Sullivan County’s Sergeant Hinkle, who was killed in the line of duty in 2019 while conducting a welfare check. That award went to Frontier Health Safe House’s Director Tina Johnson for her work in supporting victims in the process of healing.

Also recognized were Sullivan County Sheriff’s Detective Anthony Stevens and BTPD Officer Nicolas Fugate for their tireless service to victims in the region.

The Service & Protection Awards are held every October during Domestic Violence Awareness Month.