Fallen officers memorialized

Published 12:29 am Thursday, May 17, 2018

Area law enforcement officers and their supporters gathered Wednesday morning for a solemn remembrance of fellow fallen officers held as part of Law Enforcement Memorial week.

Nine officers have fallen in the line of duty in Covington County.

“An officer can never predict or expect not to come home, not to iron their uniform one more time, not to kiss their wives or child again, or even say goodbye one last time,” Andalusia Police Chief Paul Hudson said. “What they did do, as expected of each of us, they answered the call to keep our community safe. They protected and served and made the ultimate sacrifice. What they are doing now is celebrating with their heavenly father.

“Continue to answer that call,” Hudson said. “Know that every moment with your family, every kiss or every hug could be your last and you should appreciate it. Honor the lives of the fallen by giving as much of yourself to your loved ones as you do to your community. Honor your brothers and sisters in law enforcement by continuing the job they began.”

Opp Police Chief Mike McDonald shared some chilling statistics.

“I knew five of the nine names on that monument,” McDonald said. “They were all good folks and they were all good cops and then something went wrong for them and they are no longer with us. When that moment comes, if it comes, it will come when you are least expecting it, it will come rapidly and if you’re not ready for it, then you will die.”

McDonald said that in 2017, there were 135 officers that died, 58 of those being criminal homicides. He said in 2018, there have been 58 officers that have died, with three of those being criminal homicides.

“The average age of those officers was 39, my friends that is too young,” McDonald said. “The average time of duty they served was 11 years and seven months. They weren’t a bunch of rookies. I pray that God comforts and protects the families of the loved ones, and that they rest easy. We will take it from here and takeover your watch.”

McDonald then turned to the officers in the room.

“I pray that God gives you the wisdom to do your duty,” McDonald said.

Sheriff Dennis Meeks has first-hand knowledge of what it’s like to lose an officer.

“Two officers, Heath Kelley and Larry Smith, were killed while I was sheriff,” Meeks said. “Having these two men killed while under my watch is the hardest thing I have ever dealt with, and I hope it doesn’t happen to Chief Hudson or Chief McDonald.”

Meeks then went on to talk about excellence.

“Whatever the reason, let us always strive for excellence,” Meeks said. “The root word of excellence is excel, which means to rise up out of. As we remember our fallen heroes, wherever you are in your career, rise up out of and continue to rise towards excellence. We expect no less.”

Andalusia Mayor Earl Johnson and District Attorney Walt Merrell also spoke at the event, which was held at the Wilbur Williams Law Enforcement Training Center.