Fallen officers honored at memorial in Morgan County
By Erica Smith
For the Enquirer
Law enforcement officers and others attending the annual Morgan County Fallen Officers Memorial ceremony fell silent Tuesday morning during the 21-gun salute and as taps played at the event’s conclusion.
It was a time for remembering the nine law enforcement officers from Morgan County killed in the line of duty from 1905-1985.
It was also a time for reflecting on the words of retired Huntsville Police Chief Mark McMurray, who said officers should have honor.
“There’s two questions to think about when you’re defining what is honor. Number one, what is worth dying for? Number two, what is worth living for?” said McMurray, the event’s guest speaker.
He said officers serve as a thin blue line separating chaos from law and order. Fallen officers, McMurray said, are more than a name on a wall.
“They’re a special citizen that answered the call committing to duty, honor and service,” he said.
During the ceremony at Cotaco Park at the Morgan County Courthouse, the names of the nine Morgan County officers were read as a rose for each officer was placed in a vase in front of a memorial. Deputy Charles (Bill) Biles of the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office was the last officer from the county killed in the line of duty, in 1985.
Sheriff Ron Puckett said the ceremony means “We haven’t forgotten; we remember.” He said it is important as a family, community, and law enforcement profession to remember loved ones who have fallen.
“There’s not a single law enforcement officer wearing a badge today that would not put their life on the line to save a community member, someone that we serve. That’s what we do,” Puckett said.
Mike Swafford, Morgan County Sheriff’s Office spokesman, said the ceremony means more each year because more officers are killed nationwide each year.
“It’s important for our guys to be reminded of what their job means but also for the community to come out and pause and remember these gentlemen who literally died serving their community,” Swafford said.
Swafford said officers took an oath to serve and protect.
“Taking time to remember today reminds all of us of what goes on all the other days. That job that they died for is still going on, it’s still dangerous,” Swafford said.
Hartselle Mayor Randy Garrison gave opening remarks and talked about the recent movements in some parts of the nation to defund the police.
“I don’t know about you, but if someone breaks into my house and tries to hurt me, I want someone to stop the threat by whatever means necessary,” Garrison said.
Police officers are not the bad guys but are our friends, neighbors and family members, he said.
“Let us continue to show appreciation for those who work to protect our homes, children, businesses and even our lives as they put their life on the line each and every day.”
Decatur Police Chief Todd Pinion said fallen officers have helped pave the way for those that currently serve.
“It’s something we never ever want to think about,” Pinion said of deaths on the job. “As officers it could happen, but it is definitely a special meaning to them to know that if something were to happen that their lives and what they’ve done has not gone forgotten.”
McMurray said there are more than 800,000 police officers in America that go to work daily not knowing if they will come home, and coping with the unknown makes police officers and their families special.
McMurray said in America “this year alone there have been 102 law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.” That includes deaths from gunfire as well as from accidents and illnesses contracted on the job.
Ray Long, Morgan County Commission chairman, read a county proclamation and said he was honored to be a part of the ceremony. “It is a ceremony that I hope carries on long after none of us are here anymore to remember not just the sacrifices the officer makes but the sacrifices their families make.”