Officers remember their fallen comrades in annual event

Kile Brewer
Posted 5/9/18

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Each year, the Police Memorial Service is a somber occasion.

Members of local law enforcement agencies come together with the Clay County Sheriff’s Office to remember the …

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Officers remember their fallen comrades in annual event

Posted

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Each year, the Police Memorial Service is a somber occasion.

Members of local law enforcement agencies come together with the Clay County Sheriff’s Office to remember the lives of officers who, one day, put on their uniform and never came home. This year, recent losses among the state’s law enforcement officers brought an immediate sense of grief to the proceedings.

“In the last three weeks, we in Florida have lost three men,” said State Sen. Rob Bradley(R-Fleming Island). “For those of us who love Florida, and call it home, we have had three deaths in our family this month.”

The day before the service, on May 7, a sheriff’s deputy in Highlands County passed away after being shot by a suspect on a routine disturbance call the day before. About two weeks before that, two Gilchrist County deputies were gunned down for no apparent reason as they sat eating lunch at a Chinese restaurant.

Bradley said Florida is not alone in this grieving – 36 officers have been killed nationwide since the start of 2018, and that in 2017 a total of 129 officers died in the line of duty.

“So many families torn apart by evil,” Bradley said. “The grief is so great, and the loss so severe that it can make you question everything, it can make us fearful of the future, and where we’re headed as a country.”

For Bradley, this fear is offset by his Christian faith, something he said is synonymous with the code of peacekeeping and love that law enforcement is meant to adhere to. Incidents like these must bring uneasiness to anyone wearing a badge, but it was clear at Tuesday’s event that the risk is worth their oath to defend the public.

“Every officer has accepted a calling that sets them apart,” he said. “Most of us imagine, if the moment is called for, that we would risk our lives to protect our spouse or child. Those wearing the uniform assume that risk for the safety of strangers. They and their family share the unspoken knowledge that each new day can bring new dangers.”

The event was held at Spring Park in Green Cove Springs, offering guests views of the park, and shade from its trees, as well as a panoramic view of the St. Johns River which was peppered with local law enforcement boats, including some firefighting boats complete with water cannons that cast their streams in a double arc over the rest of the fleet. A large U.S. flag was hung from a pair of ladder trucks that created a massive entryway for guests who walked into the park and made their way to the gazebo.

Bradley spoke following the welcome and invocation, a proclamation from the Clay County Board of County Commissioners and a musical performance from Ashley White, daughter of fallen CCSO detective David White. As the audience hung on Bradley’s careful assessment of the delicacy of the current climate between citizens and law enforcement, Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels took the microphone.

“We come here to memorialize and pay tribute to those who have fallen in the line of duty, who all they did was raise their right hand,” Daniels said. “These men who have fallen, who have given their lives, who paid the ultimate sacrifice, they didn’t know that when they raised their right hand that the clock began to tick, and that when they raised their right hand they had an expiration on their lives and on their journey.”

Daniels cited the fallen officers as having lived what the Bible calls a beautiful life, which he defined as occurring when a person devotes their life, with all their might and power, to doing something they care about.

“To keep people safe is a beautiful life,” Daniels said. “It’s a privilege, it’s an honor, to be able to stand in the gap [between good and evil]. The community owes those of us in uniform nothing, but we owe our communities everything.”

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