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East Tennessee honors officers on 'Back the Blue' day

"I knew being in this area that we had to do something so big because we want to thank them just because."

Thousands of people are honoring East Tennessee's men and women in blue today one year after a major movement was started to honor law enforcement across the country.

August 1 is Back the Blue Day. Tens of thousands of people across the country are recognizing it for the second year, which was created to honor law enforcement after a wave of violence struck officers in tragedies such as the Dallas police shootings in July 2016.

East Tennessee native Ashley Shepherd spearheaded the movement by launching a nationwide campaign on her online ministry called Beautifully Designed, attracting the attention of lawmakers and supporters from all 50 states within two days.

"I had no idea when I launched this idea it'd catch on so quickly. I didn't know what they'd do," Shepherd said. "It's just neat to see people rise up to help their local heroes."

On Tuesday starting at 10 a.m., volunteers will distribute the 500 hospitality bags and cards to officers in every police department in Blount County, in addition to dispatch and the airport. Volunteers will also serve officers lunch and dinner, as well as bring in pastors to pray over them.

"They deserve this and so much more. They are the ones that protect and serve us. They go toward danger while we stay away, so this is just a very small way to show our appreciation," Shepherd said.

Shows of appreciation will be happening in departments all across East Tennessee and the country.

Last Sunday, around 300 volunteers came together to pack 500 hospitality bags for the law enforcement officers in preparation of the Back the Blue 2017.

"I knew being in this area that we had to do something so big because we want to thank them just because," Shepherd said.

Barely three weeks after the first "Back the Blue" day, Maryville Police officer Kenny Moats was killed in the line of duty.

"We did lose one of our own officers this past year and his family is sill here and active in the community, so yes it definitely makes this a special year and I think it will for years to come," volunteer Crystal Foust said.

Several Alcoa Police officers and members of the Blount County Sheriff's Office SWAT team were at the event. They assisted and educated children who showed up to the event about what officers do and how to help others.

"It's so awesome to have the community turn out and for all the officers in all the cities and county, it makes you feel proud and it makes you feel good to do the job," BCSO K-9 deputy Skip Kindig said. "There isn't a better feeling in the world than knowing people will rally around you just because."

Shepherd hopes this movement will remind people of the sacrifices officers make every day.

"We do this to show God's love," Shepherd said. "It's a dark world out there and there's some negativity out there with some officers sometimes, so the reality is it's time as a community, especially here in East Tennessee and the Volunteer State to rise up and show our support and love."