Today is Tuesday, August 22, 2017

From streets to sand (and back)

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National Guard Sgt. Jon Wilhelm leaves Bagram Air Force Base, in Afghanistan, headed to the Saudi Arabian Peninsula. Courtesy John Wilhelm
Jon Wilhelm with “two of my fine brother soldiers,” Jorge and David Vega.
When MJPD Officer Jon Wilhelm is not serving Mt. Juliet or his country in the military, he spends time with his dog Clyde.

Local patrolman serves double duty

Whether it's the streets, or the sands of a foreign country, Jon Wilhelm of Wilson County patrols for a living.

It's not too often one makes the choice to serve double duty for their country. Wilhelm, 26, has made this his life's path and said he wouldn't do it any other way.

Today, he serves both locally as a patrolman at the Mt. Juliet Police Department and overseas as a sergeant for the Tennessee Army National Guard, with the 269 Military Police Company, out of Murfreesboro.

Chosing to serve a personal decision

Patriotic and service-oriented, he doesn't come from a long line of family military members, though, his grandfather was a Marine. He said his career choices are more of a personal penchant to "give back" and "service for our country."

"I felt like it was my calling," he said.

Married, but with no children, Wilhelm spent what he called an "adventurous" one-year deployment in northern Afghanistan and southern Saudi Arabia. He was deployed on Jan. 6, 2014, and returned to Wilson County on Dec. 17, 2014, to a huge welcome home celebration at the Smyrna Airport where MJPD's chief and deputy chief personally saluted his safe return.

Serving stateside and in the Guard were not "givens" for a young Wilhelm who graduated Lebanon High School. Out of high school, he took to the ironworker trade for about three years.

"I knew I wanted to do something for my country," he said.

And he realized if he signed up for the National Guard, he would be guaranteed the means to pursue his desire to become a police officer. In fact, he finished his Criminal Justice degree while overseas and also was promoted to sergeant in the Guard.

Wilhelm said his stint overseas was something he'd never forget. In fact, he's signed up for additional year on his six-year contract with the Guard. He said he feels being in the military gives him a broader world view and just knowing "the basic chain of command" is a plus as a patrolman. He's been with the MJPD for three years and said, "once you become a police officer you are more than just what some people say is brave."

"And, it's not all about pulling people over and that type of negative connotation," he said. "There's a lot of fulfilling service to the community in so many ways."

Afghanistan memorable apart from gunfire

While Wilhelm did not see what most people term "action" in the Middle East, some of his 90-member company did grapple with mortar rounds and indirect fire. Mostly, Wilhelm's group was responsible for security for a "very special group of people." Who those people were, he can't say. He described the terrain of Afghanistan as "mountainous with beautiful snow capped mountains."

"Too bad there were people there who wanted to kill us," he said.

Saudi Arabia was "hot and dry," and he was able to visit "exotic places."

And his smartphone and Facebook helped keep him in touch with his wife, who is a nurse at University Medical Center.

"Yes, sometimes the roughest part was being away from my family, but I knew she was surrounded by both our families who live close," said Wilhelm.

He also missed his dog Clyde, a high-energy German shepherd that Wilhelm admits is a "handful unto himself."

Wilhelm was recognized at a recent Mt. Juliet City Commission meeting for his dual service. He said it was great to come home and know his job would be waiting. According to MJPD Lt. Tyler Chandler, when an employee is activated for military deployment it's the law their position "remains open upon their return."

"Officer Wilhelm is a great officer for the City of Mt. Juliet," said Chief James Hambrick. "We are glad to have him home. We appreciate his service in the Tennessee Army National Guard, and I will continue to support his military service."

"It's a great feeling getting back to work," said Wilhelm, who is on the 2 p.m. shift now. "All around, things felt different when I got back, but not in a bad way. I don't think being gone impacted anything negatively."

He said while Mt. Juliet has a relatively low crime rate, all officers face danger of the unknown, just as soldiers do.

"Wilson County and Mt. Juliet are growing like weeds in the height of summertime," he said. "Everyone needs to be diligent."

Proud of MJPD service at home

He said as a kid he never thought he'd serve double duty for his country.

"My biggest thing when I was 10 years old was being thrilled I broke a world record," he said.

And, it had nothing to do with playing soldier, or cops and robbers. An avid fisherman now and even then, Wilhelm laughs when he said he caught the then world's largest "nastiest looking fish you could imagine."

It was a black buffalo carp, at 54 pounds and 14 ounces. What clinched the record was the fact it was caught on a measly 12-pound test line.

"Yes, it was a fluke," he said. "A happenstance. Just a kid fishing off the bank with his friend."

The "nasty" looking fish graces Wilhelm's bonus room wall to this day. And his wife is getting used to it, along with some deer heads that also share the wall.

He's got a year to decide if he'll re-up his military contract. He's not sure what the future holds in that area.

"I've gotten so much out of the National Guard," he said. "I'm honored to serve both there and at the police department."

In the meantime, he will continue to patrol the streets and even tour local Girl Scout troops through the new police department.

"I just plan to get at it, get it done and do my job," he said.

Writer Laurie Everett may be contacted at

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