Honoring and remembering fallen officers

By Melanie Ruberti

May 17, 2014

Many people took time Friday morning to remember police officers, sheriff deputies, and troopers around the nation who answered the call, but never made it home.

The service was held in front of the first responders memorial at the J. Smith Lanier Park in downtown West Point. It was part of National Peace Officers Memorial Day, which was created by President John F. Kennedy in 1962. On that day, which is actually May 15th, it’s mandated that all flags in front of government buildings fly at half staff. This entire week was also National Police week.

“I’ve seen many officers who paid the ultimate price,” said West Point Police Chief, Jeffery Cato. “This is the very minimum we could do to honor those officers.”

“It’s always important to remember those who sacrifice all who gave all,” said West Point Mayor Pro Temp Gerald Ledbetter.

State, county, and city officials, plus police officers and sheriff deputies from Troup and Harris counties in Georgia, plus Chambers County in Alabama, all paid tribute to the fallen officers. During the ceremony, the names of each officer killed in the line of duty from the past year were read out loud. One hundred officers, deputies and troopers died in 2013, including Corporal Thomas Keith Slay with the Columbus Police Department. Corporal Slay was killed in a car crash while on duty. So far this year, 42 officers and deputies have perished.

“As we mourn the fallen, let’s also remember how they lived,” said Chief Cato.

“I want to thank you for everything you do. All the different things you do that we take for granted when we see those uniforms on the streets,” said District 3 Georgia Representative, U.S. Congressman Lynn Westmoreland. “You all are heroes.”

After the names were read, Chief Cato, along with other officers, placed a wreath in front of the memorial. This is the first time the city of West Point has hosted a ceremony for National Peace Officers Memorial Day since the memorial was erected in 2012. Chief Cato said fortunately, the West Point Police Department has never lost an officer in the line of duty.

The ceremony wrapped up with a gun salute, plus the playing of Taps and Amazing Grace.