The LAPD also recognized Detective Sammy Hancock, who served as a master sergeant in the Air Force and returned from Baghdad on March 6. “These are strange times,” Bratton said. “There has never been a time in our history where the military and police must be so united, because the threat is no longer overseas. The threat is here.” About 500 LAPD officers and civilian personnel serve in the armed forces reserves or National Guard, said Officer Dennis DeNoi, the LAPD’s military liaison officer. Just after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, about 200 of them were on active duty. Now, as the war approaches its third anniversary, only 43 LAPD personnel are on active duty, the fewest since the terrorist attacks on New York City and the Pentagon, DeNoi said. Last year, the Department of Homeland Security honored the LAPD with the Freedom Award for supporting its employees in the military. “Forty years ago next month, I went to Vietnam,” Bratton said. “When I returned, there were no honors, no recognition. I have made a commitment as chief of this department to honor, whenever possible, those men and women who are serving double duty, both here at home and abroad.” Hancock’s unit was responsible for protecting Baghdad International Airport. During his six months in Baghdad, he managed a $4 million budget for base protection. He coordinated base communication and designed a more effective radio system for the base, saving the Air Force $200,000. “It’s good to be home,” said Hancock, who will return to work as a burglary detective in April. “When I left Baghdad, it was wet and muddy. It’s the rainy season over there.” The LAPD honored Kirkpatrick and Hancock just before Bratton, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and others inspected each of the 300 officers stationed in the West Valley Division. Kirkpatrick played the role of humble hero. “I appreciate it, not so much for myself, but for the guys in the military over there right now,” he said. Comas and Kaneta came up from Camp Pendleton to attend the ceremony and meet Kirkpatrick for the first time. “We had heard of him. We knew what he did for us, but we never got to meet,” Comas said. “We just wanted to say thank you.” Josh Kleinbaum, (818) 713-3669 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE‘Mame,’ ‘Hello, Dolly!’ composer Jerry Herman dies at 88 “I kept thinking: One more mortar, I’m going to be dead.” A little to the east, Maj. Jonathan Kirkpatrick, commander of F Company, 2nd Battalion, 23rd Division Marines – “the 2-23” – got word of the ambush. Within minutes, he readied his unit for a rescue operation. Exposing himself to enemy fire from AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades, Kirkpatrick led an assault on the insurgents and saved Comas’ company. “I’ve never heard as much firepower or gun power in my life, from any movie or anything, as I heard from the sound of the 2-23’s,” said Sgt. Tatem Kaneta, another Marine pinned down in the attack. “It was the greatest sound in the world.” Kirkpatrick, a patrol officer for the Los Angeles Police Department who also serves in the Marine Reserves, was awarded the military’s Bronze Star for leading the rescue effort. He was honored Thursday during an every-third-year inspection of the LAPD’s West Valley Division. Chief William Bratton formally presented the medal to Kirkpatrick on behalf of the Marines. RESEDA – Marine Sgt. David Comas was eating a pretzel in his truck in Al Ghraaf, Iraq, when he heard a loud bang, then felt an explosion rock the vehicle. He spun around, looking for the legs of the first sergeant standing in the gun turret, but they were gone. Comas, just 20 at the time, thought he was going to die. The mortar destroyed the engine and immobilized the truck, blocking an escape for the advance party of a Marine unit that was trying to set up artillery. For the next 89 minutes, Iraqi insurgents pounded the Marines with an artillery barrage. “There were mortars everywhere,” Comas recalled nearly three years after the March 25, 2003, ambush. “When they say we were pinned down, we were really pinned down. They were launching mortars, rockets, everything.