ESCANABA – Law enforcement personnel from throughout the region came out in full force Thursday to remember those who died in the line of duty while working for local, county and state agencies.
Officers and the public gathered at the Escanaba High School auditorium for Peace Officers Memorial Day on Thursday. This week is Peace Officers Memorial Week when communities nationwide take time to honor the fallen heros with ceremonies like the one held in Escanaba.
So far this year, 48 officers in the country have died while on duty, 1,500 died in the last decade, and 21,000 made the ultimate sacrifice over time, explained Terry Jungle, director of the Michigan Sheriff’s Association.
Three officers have been killed in the line of duty in Michigan this year, he added, noting that no officer plans to die but they are all willing to die.
“They made the ultimate sacrifice that cannot be repaid,” said Jungle.
“They will never be forgotten by their comrades and should never be forgotten by the community,” he added, asking that they be remembered by how they lived and not by how they died.
Thursday’s memorial event began with a procession of about 50 law enforcement vehicles traveling from Gladstone to Escanaba.
Jay Martin, a Michigan State Police chaplain, played the bagpipes as he led officers into the school auditorium. Trooper Bill Witt called the officers to attention as Gladstone American Legion posted the colors.
Gregg Cunningham, commander of the Michigan State Police Post in Gladstone, gave an introduction followed by the Escanaba High School Chorus singing the American and Canadian national anthems.
Other local officers participating in the ceremony included Escanaba Public Safety Director Ken Vanderlinden, Delta County Sheriff Gary Ballweg, Gladstone Public Safety Director Paul Geyer, Sgt. Darryl Shann from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and Lt. Justin Poupore from Hannahville Tribal Police Department.
Bob Stevenson, director of the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, addressed the audience, reminding them that officers everywhere protect communities while “putting their life on the line day in and day out.”
“The surviving family members can never forget the sacrifice they made,” Stevenson said, saying that’s why communities cannot forget them.
Delta County Prosecutor Steve Parks, the guest speaker, encouraged people to not only honor fallen officers but also appreciate officers who are keeping the community safe and secure.
“Don’t wait until it’s too late,” Parks said. “Why wait for tragedy to thank an officer?”
Parks said officers choose their occupation to make a difference in the world and to serve, protect and help others. They put in long hours of stressful work at tremendous personnel sacrifice, he added.
Officers defend life, are asked to take a life, and are willing to give up their own lives, noted Parks, closing his speech with, “Thanks for a job well done.”
Officers from various agencies, including a cadet from the Northern Michigan University Police Academy, read a list of fallen officers who served in the Upper Peninsula, in bordering Wisconsin areas, and in Ontario, Canada. A list was also read of U.P. natives who died while working for police agencies downstate.
Descendants of fallen officer Frank Curran participated in the laying of a wreath Thursday. The deputy sheriff was shot and killed by an escaped convict in Rock on June 20, 1923.
Additional agencies which participated in Thursday’s ceremony included the MSP Emergency Support Team and the Michigan Department of Corrections.
Besides the Escanaba choral, other community participants included the Gladstone High School Choral, the Remnants Barbershop Chorus, and members of the Escanaba City Band.
Last year’s U.P. police memorial was held in Dickinson County. Dickinson County Law Enforcement presented a traveling plaque of fallen officers to Delta County Law Enforcement.
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Jenny Lancour, (906) 786-2021, ext. 143, email@example.com