When Hall County Sheriff’s Office deputy Nicolas Blane Dixon was killed in the line of duty, fellow deputy Mitch Salain knew he wanted to find some way to honor his memory.
Salain, 50, honored Dixon for more than 70 miles Sunday, Sept. 29, taking part in the Ironman 70.3 in Augusta.
“I've been in law enforcement for about 24 years … but this was the first time I've been at an agency where an actual fellow officer has been killed,” said Salain, who’s been with Hall County for four months. “I just thought this would be a good opportunity to go hands on and do something for the family, even if it was just handing them a flag with his name on it.”
After the swimming and biking portion of the triathlon, Salain carried a flag with Dixon’s name and end-of-watch date emblazoned on it. At the end of the race, he handed it off to Dixon’s family, who was there to support Salain the entire way.
“You could just tell when people saw him going by, there was a different level of respect,” said Zack Dixon, Blane Dixon’s oldest brother. “There’s a lot of respect for the guys that are out there, but it was just different when he came by.”
At the end, Salain said it was pretty emotional.
“I was happy to finish and happy to give them the flag but still sad because of the reasons I was doing that,” Salain said. “So you're kind of caught between a bunch of emotions there.”
Before Augusta, though, they all met in Gainesville. Salain gave one of Blane Dixon’s sons, Caden, a cross pendant he’s carried for years since he was in the Coast Guard. Salain told Caden to keep it and he’d trade him for something better once he crossed the finish line.
“He kept the cross for two weeks and then I gave him the Ironman finisher medal,” Salain said. “It's really something minor in the grand scheme of things, but I just thought this is the least I could do for the family. It may help. I don’t know, but I just thought that maybe it would make it better for a second or two.”
Salain said many people noticed him carrying the flag during the race and would gave him pats on the back, thanking him for what he was doing. At one point, he said he had a handful of law enforcement officers from different states running alongside him.
“The death of Deputy Nicolas Blane Dixon remains a raw and emotional wound for the men and women of the Sheriff's Office and the Dixon family,” Hall County Sheriff Gerald Couch said. “Through the pain, I’m continually amazed at the ways our deputies are expressing their support for Blane Dixon’s family and honoring his legacy.”
There have been fundraisers and words of support for the family in the months since Dixon’s death in early July, and Salain’s completion of the Ironman 70.3 was yet another bit of support sent their way.
“We just really want to say a big thank you to everybody in the community and the Hall County Sheriff’s Office and to Mitch himself,” Zack Dixon said. “There’s just a lot of really good people that Blane had the privilege to work with, and we just really appreciate all the support.”
Couch echoed that appreciation of support shown by Salain and said he was impressed with what he accomplished.
“Deputy Mitch Salain’s determination and spirit to finish this triathlon in honor of Blane is truly inspiring,” Couch said. “Through the scorching heat and blistered feet, he carried that flag and finished strong. I’m proud of him and thankful to have him at the Sheriff’s Office.”
It wasn’t Salain’s fist Ironman and it won’t be his last, but it was one he’ll never forget.
“My only goal was to cross the finish line,” Salain said. “I slowed down a lot, but the only thing I was concerned about was crossing the finish line.”