City pays respects to fallen officers at memorial

Published 7:59 pm Thursday, October 14, 2021

Suffolk Police officers remember the fallen every day, and they honored them, and current officers’ commitment to put their lives at risk daily, during the city’s Law Enforcement Memorial service.

The Oct. 13 service in the council chamber of City Hall was the first time it had been held since May 2019 due to COVID-19 restrictions. During the ceremony, roses were placed in a wreath in memory of the Suffolk Police officers who have died in the line of duty — George T. Smith in 1908, Chief William E. Brinkley in 1918, Joseph Pratt in 1935 and William A. Henley in 2005 — and “Taps” was played. According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, 351 officers have died this year in the line of duty, including 228 due to COVID-19, and another 48 from gunfire.

“It is my greatest honor to be able to convey our gratitude and respect for the ultimate sacrifices made by so many law enforcement who gave their lives to protect our safety and defend our freedoms,” said Mayor Mike Duman. “In light of what we’ve seen happening around our nation and our communities, it is up to us to bear true witness to the bravery and sacrifice made by our law enforcement officers by remembering we all play a personal role in keeping our neighborhood safe.”

He said everyone must take a stand against crime, help one another in times of need and teach children right from wrong.

Being an officer is a dangerous, but rewarding profession, Duman said, and praised all who have fallen in the line of duty for their professionalism, dedication and their loss “reminds us all of the monumental role that police officers have in our society.”

“They are the keepers of the peace, and guardians of the law, and we should also remember that they are fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters and neighbors,” Duman said.

Capt. Ronnie Brown, commanding officer of the Virginia National Guard’s 2nd Battalion, 183rd Cavalry Regiment, noted in his keynote address that it is “the love for your community and fellow man” that drives officers to serve. He thanked officers for their service as they honored the bravery of those who have died, calling for their memory to live on through their actions while striving to make them proud and attempting to repay the debt owed for their sacrifice.

“You’re part of a small population that is willing to lay down your life for the protection of others,” Brown said. “Many civilians do not understand the concept. They do not recognize the hours of training you put in to perfect your craft or the overtime you pull to ensure all shifts are covered. When others are running away from chaos, you run towards it.”

Sometimes, he said, it comes at a price of physical injuries, invisible wounds or the loss of their lives.

“It’s always challenging to see one of your teammates injured or killed in the line of duty, but we do our best to honor them and carry on their legacy,” Brown said. “So today, we honor those men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for the protection of the rest of us.

“We thank them for their service and know in our hearts that the world is a better and a safer place because of them. We know that they died doing what they loved. Their memory will be carried on unknowingly through the laughter of children able to go to school safely, mothers and fathers able to go to work and earn a living to support their families and all walks of people able to go to parks, movie theaters (and) shops without fear of not coming home.”