Annual memorial service honors fallen police officers

By Marian AccardiMay 13, 2024

A memorial cross holds the flowers pinned by family survivors of local fallen officers or agency representatives during the May 8 Law Enforcement Memorial Service on the south side of the Madison County Courthouse.
A memorial cross holds the flowers pinned by family survivors of local fallen officers or agency representatives during the May 8 Law Enforcement Memorial Service on the south side of the Madison County Courthouse. (Photo Credit: Marian Accardi) VIEW ORIGINAL

The 26 local law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty since 1880 were honored at the annual Law Enforcement Memorial Service last week in Huntsville.

“The officers we remember today … laid down their lives for their community,” Huntsville Police Chief Kirk Giles said.

“Each law enforcement officer’s death leaves behind a family struggling to move forward,” Giles said, as well as “countless friends, co-workers and communities trying to understand why this happened.”

The officers being remembered didn’t choose these careers for the recognition, but instead shared a commitment to serve and “a desire to work for something larger than themselves. We’re forever indebted to them for the ultimate sacrifice they made, serving our community and protecting the freedoms that we enjoy.”

The Fraternal Order of Police T.L. Blakemore Lodge 6 sponsored the observance, held May 8 on the south side of the Madison County Courthouse.

During the ceremony, Lodge spokesman Donny Shaw read the names of the officers and the dates and circumstances of their deaths, as family survivors or agency representatives pinned a flower to the cross set up in front of the fallen officers memorial. The officers’ names are engraved on the monument, which Lodge 6 erected in 1990.

Giles noted that four officers were killed last month in a shooting while attempting to serve a warrant at a home in Charlotte, North Carolina. The officers included a deputy, a U.S. marshal and two local task force officers.

“Why, why did this happen? Attacks on police officers are attacks on the very fabric of our society and cannot be tolerated,” Giles said.

Madison County Sheriff Kevin Turner said it’s important to remember the lives and service of the fallen officers.

“Each of them got up every day, put on their gun and badge and went to work not knowing if they would return home,” he said.

These officers were husbands, fathers, sons and brothers – all members of the community – but the difference was that “in addition to being normal, everyday people, they also took on the huge responsibility of serving and protecting the community that we all call home.

“It takes a special person to be in law enforcement especially in today’s world.

They don’t do it because they want to be rich. They do it because they’re drawn to it. They do it because they have a servant’s heart. They have a desire to protect others and the selflessness to put others before themselves.”

Officers work “crazy hours,” weekends and holidays, knowing the dangers they face, he said. “However, they continue to stand strong every day regardless of the risk to themselves and regardless of what some people may say about them.”

Turner addressed the families of the fallen officers, saying: “You more than anyone here know what true sacrifice is.

“You will always be in our thoughts and our prayers, and your fallen officers will never be forgotten.”

He also thanked current law enforcement officers and their families for their continued service.

Alabama Rep. Rex Reynolds, a former Huntsville police chief, public safety director and city administrator, said that 136 law enforcement officers died in the line of duty in 2023 in the United States, and 378 were shot in the line of duty last year.

“There are officers among us today that have been shot or injured yet they have committed themselves to this profession,” Reynolds said. “The Thin Blue Line is real. While our profession remains under attack … we pause to pay tribute” to fallen officers.

Shaw said that on May 3, three fallen Alabama officers who died in 2023, including Huntsville Police Department Officer Garrett Crumby, were honored at the Alabama Fraternal Order of Police Fallen Officer Memorial Service at the state capitol in Montgomery. Crumby was shot and killed while responding to a shots fired call at the 4600 block of Governors House Drive in Huntsville. Another officer was shot during an ambush and survived.

After the memorial flower pinning, the Madison County Honor Guard fired a 21-gun salute and performed Taps. The ceremony closed with the Missing Man Formation conducted by the Joint Agency Honor Guard. 
Editor’s note: May is Law Enforcement Appreciation Month and May 15 is Peace Officers Memorial Day. National Police Week takes place May 12-18 this year.