MADISON COUNTY, Ala. - At the 2018 Fraternal Order of Police Fallen Officer Memorial, the community remembered 23 law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty.
The annual ceremony recognized each fallen officer by reading their end-of-watch. Family or friends then pinned a flower on a memorial cross in remembrance. Taps were played, and a 21-gun salute followed by a candlelight vigil closed the ceremony.
The Fraternal Order of Police notes that 23 law enforcement officers have died in the line of duty in Madison County since 1808:
- HPD: 12
- MCSO: 8
- USM: 1
- MPD: 1
- NHPD: 1
This year, the FOP added one more name to the ceremony: Keith Earle. Huntsville Police Officer Earle was involved in a traffic crash on March 26th and succumbed to his injuries on April 9th. The FOP will add his name to the memorial wall soon.
Earle's grieving family sat alongside others who still suffer with loss. Their law enforcement family showed up to say they care, are here for them, and always will be.
"We love them. We care about them. We are family, and we will continue to be there to support them," said Captain Jeffery Rice of the Huntsville Police Department.
Capt. Rice counted Earle as a friend out in the department's North Precinct. They served together for many years.
"We used to work second shift together," he noted. Rice said the department is taking it day by day to cope with the loss, and losing Earle made the memorial feel even more difficult this year.
"This year, because we worked together for so many years, it is a little different. You knew someone, who you were close to. Someone that you worked with as a comrade, but also as a friend," he said.
It is an emotional day for those officers who come to present the colors, escort families who have lost loved ones, or speak at the memorial each year. But they keep coming back because they want to continue to show respect and honor to those who have died on duty.
"It's humbling to be able to participate in this kind of event," said Sgt. Stephen Anderson of HPD, "and to be able to honor their memory, honor their family and the sacrifice they have made as well."
He said it's a powerful moment to hear the names read and to fully appreciate what it means.
"Those officers who have given that sacrifice, you're striving to live up to their example. To be able to follow in their footsteps. And to hopefully be as professional and dedicated to the service as they were in giving their lives," he said. "It's a constant reminder. I'm glad we do it every year because it's easy to forget. Americans have short memories. It's good for us to do this every year so we are always reminded of the sacrifice they have given."