Badges of honor: IRC salutes fallen heroes

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — Law enforcement officers normally separated by city limits and jurisdictional borders stood in solidarity Monday to honor fallen brethren and to recognize heroic acts in the line of duty.

Roughly 100 uniformed officers, public officials, attorneys, crime victims and loved ones of officers attended annual wreath-laying ceremony to commemorate National Police Week, in part to give thanks for living in a relatively safe community, and in part to pay homage to those who gave their lives to protect the public.

“Wherever I go, I feel safe,” Indian River County Commission Chair Bob Solari said of his local daily travels, adding that it’s important to him to know his wife is safe here, too. “How wonderful it is to live in a community where you are safe.”

Solari reminded those gathered that a law enforcement officer dies in the line of duty in the United States on average every 61 hours, and that 123 officers perished in 2015 and 1,439 in the past decade.

Though Vero Beach, Sebastian, Fellsmere, Indian River Shores and the rest of the county remain, mercifully, unscathed by the deadly violence perpetrated against peace officers in inner cities and other parts of the nation, the same risks exist every time any officer puts on the uniform and badge.

Clerk of the Court Jeff Smith, who admitted he has little contact with law enforcement except with the bailiffs who protect the courthouse, offered an earnest blessing to a litany of officers who recently, in disregard for their own safety, took risks to save others.

Smith cited the lack of respect for and lashing out against law enforcement as a sign that our society “has lost it moral compass” and emphasized the importance of the rule of law.

Chiefs from all the local agencies jointly laid wreaths at a memorial near the front steps of the Indian River County Courthouse, an honor guard pierced the warm spring air with the crack of a 21-gun salute and piper Michael Hyde concluded with the haunting tones of Amazing Grace on the bagpipes.

A fly-by by the Indian River Sheriff’s Office helicopter unit closed out the ceremony and officers greeted old friends and colleagues, working their way toward a reception at the courthouse.

National Police Week, which branched out from a National Peace Officers’ Day designated by President John F. Kennedy in 1962, runs through May 21 with events in cities and towns across America and a national gathering in Washington, D.C.

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