When Ascension Parish Sheriff Jeffrey Wiley looked out on the crowd of mostly police officers at the annual Peace Officers Memorial ceremony Friday morning at the Sheriff’s Office training center in Gonzales, he said he saw a group of brothers and sisters who are not afraid of sacrifice.
Wiley gave the keynote speech reflecting on the valiant efforts of peace officers in the past who died in the line of duty, specifically the five officers in Louisiana who died in the past year.
“There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends,” Wiley said.
The event came at the end of Peace Officer Memorial Week, a week President John F. Kennedy designated in 1962 as a time to honor the officers who died in the line of duty.
Because of such sacrifices, it takes a special person with a will to protect the innocent, uphold justice and put others before themselves to be a police officer, said Lt. David Martin, of the Sheriff’s Office, in his opening remarks.
Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Allison Hudson said while no officers in Ascension Parish were killed in the line of duty this year, the event is important to show the appreciation for the men and women who are on the front lines every day.
“Many people don’t think about us until you need us,” Hudson said.
The ceremony featured the singing of the national anthem and flag presentation by the Sheriff’s Office and Gonzales Police Department Honor Guard. Afterward, Wiley and another officer placed a wreath on a memorial honoring fallen police officers.
A parade of five officers marched in place to a station with five roses resting beside a vase; each rose represented one of the five fallen Louisiana officers. Roll call commenced, and as each name was read aloud, an officer picked up a rose and placed it in the vase.
The solemn procession then exited to the sound of bagpipes.
While much of the ceremony reflected upon the sacrifice of fallen officers, Wiley remained optimistic about the future. Among the faces in the crowd, he said, were plenty of new officers, unafraid to put on the uniform and fight against evil every day.
“They take up the badge even when they know they may be memorialized like this one day,” he said, referring to the fallen officers.
The ceremony ended with members of the Marine Corps firing off a 21-gun salute in honor of the dead and this time “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes, an endearing ending to commemorate the fallen.