Elgin's police officer and firefighter of the year both ended up having successful careers in their childhood dream job.
Police Officer Joe Riordan and Fire Capt. Robb Cagann were chosen by their respective departments and honored Tuesday night at the annual ceremony at American Legion Post 57.
For the first time, the ceremony also honored American Legion Auxiliary members who marked milestones, past post commander Tricia L. Deringer said.
Riordan exemplifies the finest patrol policing, which is becoming somewhat of a lost art, Elgin Cmdr. Glenn Theriault said.
Once, Riordan prevented a propane tank from blowing up when he discovered an electrical fire while checking a construction site, Theriault said.
"That, to me, makes the difference in patrol," he said.
Riordan, 50, said he dreamed of becoming a police officer while growing up on Chicago's North Side.
He started in Elgin as a patrolman in 1990, a position he held for six years until he became a liaison officer for Elgin Community College for 15 years.
"As much as it was police work, it was more connecting to the students, talking to the students, mentoring the students, listening to boy/girl problems," he said.
He was reassigned to patrol in January 2013, and he often works the downtown beat.
"That allows me to be out on foot, talking to business owners and merchants," he said.
Technology has changed a patrolman's tools, but not the essence of the job, Riordan said.
"It's about the people. It's about talking to the people, interacting with the people," he said. "I love what I do, and I'm humbled about getting an award for it."
Elgin Fire Chief John Fahy said Cagann, to put it simply, "walks the walk and talks the talk.
"He's a detail-oriented guy that commands respect, and he's a guy that the troops realize knows what he's talking about. He brings legitimacy to his position," he said.
Cagann, 45, started his career in 1993 in Elgin after serving as a volunteer fireman in Fox Lake and in Kentucky, where he went to college.
"At 5 (years old), I remember talking to my mom about wanting to drive ambulances," he said. "Everything I did was focused on the fire service."
He has served as training officer since 2000, and also oversees the special operations division, which includes the water rescue, technical, hazmat and fire investigation teams.
"I really enjoy every aspect of the job. I like to be busy, I like to be involved. I'm thankful for the opportunity the department gives me to wear all those different hats," he said.
"What it comes down to is, I love doing the job. I love being a fireman."