Wyoming VFW selects recipient for Law Enforcement Officer of the Year

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CHEYENNE, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) -- Each year, Wyoming's VFW selects a law enforcement official from the state for their annual Law Enforcement Officer of the Year award.

The recipient is someone who has to have demonstrated a keen desire to help their community.

This year, that selection goes to an officer from Cheyenne.

Donnie Heiduck, 62, is a former officer with the Cheyenne Police Department, and he will receive the award due to his many accomplishments and accolades.

Heiduck, who has more 40 years' worth of experience in law enforcement, was nominated for the award three times prior, but this is the year he finally receives it.

According to a long-time friend of his -- Foy Jolley, who acts as the VFW's District-5 Sergeant -- Heiduck was long overdue for the accolade.

"[He's] well deserving, and you should see his resume," says Jolley. "From 1 to 100, the things that he has done on there -- and I made sure that he was looked at vigorously this time."

Many years ago, during a Thanksgiving snowstorm, a local Alzheimer's patient had gone missing from their care facility.

After the snow had cleared, the resident in question was found dead nearby, having gotten lost and frozen.

Following this, Heiduck -- alongside Jolley -- worked to put together Project Life Saver, a state-funded program that places transmitters on those with traumatic brain injuries, Alzheimer's, dementia or similar conditions, so that if they get lost, they can be more easily tracked and found.

"If they wandered off or lost their family, it would call us," says Heiduck. "We have a receiver, and it would allow us to locate the individual."

While Heiduck has retired from the police department in favor of a position as a state park ranger, he still keeps ties to the Cheyenne community.

"Almost 20 years, I've taught a forensic science class out at [Laramie County Community College]," he says. "I also sit on the community college foundation board -- which raises scholarships -- the Salvation Army board, the ARC of Laramie County, the Silent Witness board and a number of other community boards."

Heiduck says he's happy to receive the award and treats it as a mark of the good he's been able to do for Cheyenne.

"I'm pretty humbled, I'll be honest with you," he says. "At this point in my life, you really don't think that you're going to get anything of this magnitude. My career's expanded for a long time, I've had a lot of good things happen during my career. Community service has been my forte from the beginning."

Heiduck adds that community service is all a part of his role as a law enforcement officer.

"I became a policeman when I was 23 years old, kind of as a testament to my own father and his law enforcement career. I feel that, as a law enforcement officer, it was one of those callings, so to speak, to do things for my community that most people can't."

He's not finished, though; Heiduck has yet another "bucket list" project he's working on: a bronze statue to commemorate fallen officers.

"We started it nine years ago," he says. "And we're going to build a bronze statue and put it up on the state Capitol grounds, somewhere by the Wyoming Supreme Court in honor of the 63 law enforcement officers for the state of Wyoming that gave their life in the service of law enforcement."

VFW is scheduled to present the award to Heiduck at their next meeting in July.

For more information on the Wyoming VFW, visit their website here.