Officers who died in the line of duty were remembered Thursday during a National Peace Officers Memorial Day ceremony held at the Richmond County Courthouse in Rockingham.
As part of National Police Week, celebrated May 13-19 this year, agencies throughout the county gathered to honor those who gave their lives while serving and protecting communities throughout the country.
Law enforcement officers from the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office, Rockingham and Hamlet Police Departments, North Carolina State Highway Patrol and the NC Department of Correction were present during the ceremony.
Officiating the ceremony was Richmond County Sheriff James Clemmons Jr., who began by recognizing several city and county officials including Rockingham Mayor Gene McLaurin, Hamlet Mayor Jeff Smart, Dobbins Heights Mayor Antonio Blue, County Manager Rick Sago and County Commissioner John Garner.
Hands were placed over hearts as the crowd spoke the Pledge of Allegiance before the National Anthem, performed by Ricqui’ta McNeil.
Richmond County Clerk of Court, Kathy C. Gainey, was the guest speaker.
“Law enforcement is not a job — it is a calling,” Gainey said. “You could never find a greater group of men and women with this integrity. All too often, they lose their lives.”
Gainey said she was humbled by the kindness all of the departments have shown over the years.
Rockingham Police Chief Billy Kelly also spoke at the ceremony.
“It’s not how these officers died that made them heroes,” Chief Kelly said. “It’s how they lived. The best way to honor fallen officers is to fully support those who continue to protect and serve the community.”
First Sergeant Andreas Dietrich of NC State Highway Patrol estimated that approximately one officer is killed every 53 hours. Richmond County remembers six officers that have died in the line of duty.
Sheriff Clemmons recognized those officers as Officer John B. Fallow of Hamlet Police Department in 1942, Trooper W.L. Reese of the NC State Highway Patrol in 1957, Sheriff Elect Dewitt William Ormsby of the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office in 1943, Constable William David Smith of Marks Creek Township in 1929, Jailer S.L. Bancons of the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office in 1915, and Deputy Sheriff Melvin Duncan Livingston of the Richmond County Sheriff’s Department in 1892.
Jason Graham, Probation Parole Officer with the Department of Correction, read a poem called “The Monument” by George Hahn.
“The circumstances of (the officers’) death made them not heroes,” Graham said before he began reading. “They were heroes when they were alive.”
Also remembered during the ceremony were the families of all officers.
“Behind every strong officer is a strong family,” Lieutenant Gary Carter of the Hamlet Police Department said.
The memorial was concluded as the Honor Guard Detail lowered the flag to half staff in honor of all the fallen officers.
“I just want to commend Sheriff Clemmons for organizing the memorial service,” said Mayor McLaurin. “I want to thank all the officers throughout the county for their dedication and commitment to service.”
— Staff Writer Mallory Brown can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 16, or by email at email@example.com.