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Retired Springfield officer receives Purple Heart

11/1/2012 - South Side Leader
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By Maria Lindsay

Mark Dodez recognized with award

Mark Dodez, a retired Springfield Police officer severely injured by a drunken driver while on duty, is shown above with his daughters, Jill and Lara, and wife, Lisa, at the Oct. 25 Springfield trustees meeting, where he was recognized for his service to the community.
Photos: Maria Lindsay
SPRINGFIELD — A now retired Springfield Police Department officer left partially paralyzed from the waist down after being hit by a drunken driver March 31, 2011, received the Purple Heart award at a ceremony held prior to the Springfield Board of Trustees meeting Oct. 25.

Mark Dodez is shown above with his Purple Heart medal (also shown above), which is an award presented by the American Police Hall of Fame to police officers injured while on duty.
Pictured above is former Springfield Police Officer Mark Dodez’s retirement badge.
Mark Dodez, 33, was assisting Summit County Sheriff’s Office deputies in searching the South Arlington Road area around the Mash Oil gas station for narcotics possibly thrown from a vehicle during an earlier incident when he was hit.

Michael Plemons, the driver of the vehicle that struck him, was found guilty of aggravated vehicular assault, drunken driving and leaving the scene of an accident and was sentenced to six years in prison this past November by Summit County Common Pleas Judge Alison McCarty, according to Springfield officials.

The Law Enforcement Purple Heart is given to police officers who are injured while on duty and are off work for three or more days, according to the website of the American Police Hall of Fame, which presents the award. Mark Dodez was hospitalized for more than 100 days.

The award differs both visually and in presentation from the military Purple Heart decoration that is awarded in the name of the president on behalf of the U.S. Armed Forces to those wounded or killed while serving with any of the branches of the U.S. military against an enemy of the United States.

Springfield Police Chief John Smith said there is no one more deserving of the police Purple Heart award.

“Sometimes in tragedy we see good things come of it,” said Smith. “We take care of each other.”

Smith said a number of officers have been helping the Dodez family in the past year and singled out Springfield Police Officer John Lombardi for his daily efforts to present the Purple Heart to Mark Dodez, as well as his retirement badge.

Mark Dodez accepted the awards, stating he did not know there was a Purple Heart award for police, and he initially thought his fellow officers were trying to play a joke on him and waiting to attach training wheels to his wheelchair.

“It has been an honor to be able to serve you and work for you all the years that I did,” said Mark Dodez, a 12-year police veteran who first worked with the Lakemore Village Police Department before the merger with the Springfield Police Department.

He also thanked all those who have helped his family cope with the changes to their lives. He also said that some of those friends, like Lombardi, have now become family.

“John has been so good to me and a godsend to my family,” he said.

Mark Dodez said Lombardi comes almost daily to help with things like changing light bulbs and doing other work around the house.

Mark Dodez’s wife, Lisa, and his daughters, Jill, 6, and Lara, 4, also attended the ceremony, along with a number of friends, Springfield police officers and family.

Lisa Dodez said her husband continues to work hard in therapy, but there have been no significant changes in his health. She said they have bought some land and hope to build a new house that would help with her husband’s mobility.

“Our house is too small for Mark to move around in,” she said. “We are working with someone to help us with this.”

Lisa Dodez said their two young daughters have adapted well.

“Young kids are [resilient],” she said. “We are thankful for all the support and deeply appreciate all the thoughts and prayers sent to us.”

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