A Franklin police officer got to witness history, command other members of the Indiana National Guard and take in the sights of the nation’s capital during the presidential inauguration last week.
Jeff Merritt, a three-year veteran of the Franklin Police Department, was called as part of the 381st Military Police Company of the Indiana National Guard to help with crowd control on the streets of Washington, D.C. as thousands of people gathered to watch President Donald Trump take the oath of office.
In between acclimating himself with the area so he could help direct crowds and, of course, preparing for the worst, he got to go with the 139 other members of his company to Arlington National Cemetery and witness the changing of the guard, work with metropolitan police and the Secret Service, and take some downtime on Friday to step onto the National Mall and witness history unfolding.
“It’s just a huge honor and sense of pride that Indiana’s National Guard gets to do this,” Merritt said.
He arrived home Sunday and reflected on how grateful he was that a civilian employer, such as the city of Franklin, supports his National Guard missions and that he gets to fulfill his lifelong goals of public service and police work and represent Franklin.
His mind was likely never far from home, as he and his wife are expecting their first child, a son, this week.
Merritt has been in the National Guard for more than six years and his previous recent assignments have included providing security at a Fort Wayne air show and preparing civilians who are headed to Afghanistan. He is the company commander for the 381st.
He learned in mid-November that the Indiana National Guard would be one of 40 national guards, and 7,500 guardsmen, helping at the inauguration.
He headed to Camp Atterbury on Jan. 14 and arrived in D.C. on a bus Wednesday. Their accommodations were at FedEx Field, home of the Washington Redskins. The Indiana guardsmen were given the areas they would be directing crowds and went out to scout.
On Friday, they woke at 2 a.m. and didn’t finish their job until 8 p.m., but the 140 officers split their work into two shifts. While one shift wasn’t working, they could relax or take in the festivities.
He estimates that 95 percent of his company hadn’t been to the nation’s capital, and it made an impression.
“They really enjoyed just being able to be there and get a sense of everything, and it gives them a sense of pride to see it,” Merritt said. “Everyone was excited to see what was going to happen. It’s a huge thing, it is a part of history that everyone is witnessing.”
The crowd was excited and showed its support of the military, and the officers paid their respects as well.
“It shows a huge sense of pride when they get to see Arlington National Cemetery and the changing of the guard and all of those heroes who are buried there,” he said.