The University Police Department's reputation for outstanding service to faculty, staff and students, is in no small part due to the attitude of Capt. John Anderson.
Since starting at UNF in August of 1972, Anderson has worked nearly every job in the police department and in the process received many awards including the Gabor Award, the Spirit Award from Enrollment Services and a Certificate of Appreciation from the Child Development Research Center. The awards reflect an attitude which is well-known on campus. "I try to treat everyone as they would have someone treat their mother or sister. There are so few police and such a large population. We need all the help the public can give us," he says.
Anderson attributes that attitude to former UNF Chief of Police Martin P. Garris. "When he became chief, he changed my life to understand that there is more to policing that just putting people in jail. He taught me that we help and serve whenever possible."
While Anderson's attitude is well known, his background may come as a surprise even to UNF colleagues who have known him for some time.
He is a highly decorated U.S. Marine Corps veteran serving for 22 years in the reserves and on active duty including a tour in Vietnam in 1967. While in Vietnam, Anderson's heroism earned him the Navy commendation Medal and the Bronze Star with combat "V".
The citations tell the story well. The Bronze Star citation reads: "On 29 March 1967, while engaged in a search and destroy operation south of DeNang, the Battalion Command Group became pinned down by intense fire from an undetermined number of Viet Cong. Assigned the mission of relieving the beleaguered unit, Sergeant Anderson expeditiously embarked his platoon aboard three amphibian tractors which transported the unit across the river separating them from the command group. After arriving on the opposite shore, Sergeant Anderson quickly reorganized his platoon and led the unit to the objective area. Locating the besieged command group, he skillfully deployed his men and directed suppressive fire against the enemy. Observing three Marines in the river, pinned down by the heavy volume of enemy fire, Sergeant Anderson directed a fire team to provide covering fire, which enabled two of the men to reach covered positions. Realizing that the third Marine was too exhausted to swim to shore, he unhesitatingly exposed himself to enemy fire to enter the river and assist his comrade to safety."
The Navy Commendation citation described several events in which Anderson helped his men while exposing himself to enemy fire. During one incident, a member of his patrol detonated an enemy mine. "Staff Sergeant Anderson and two other Marines were wounded. Disregarding his own painful wounds, he skillfully established a defensive perimeter and a landing zone and, after directing the evacuation of other casualties, steadfastly remained with his men until the mission had been completed." He was awarded a Purple Heart as the result of that incident. In another incident, the citation notes, "On the night of 1 August, when his company sustained numerous casualties during a mortar attack, he fearlessly exposed himself to intense hostile fire by utilizing a flashlight to lead an amphibian tractor with wounded aboard to the safety of the Battalion Command Post."
Anderson doesn't frequently discuss his days in Vietnam but the experience played a role in his choice of a law enforcement career. His first choice was the Duval County Sheriff's Office. But he was turned away because he was told he was too small to be a police officer. Anderson then went to UNF where he was hired for $6,973 a year. Ever since, Duval County's loss has been UNF's gain.