Family, friends and law enforcement watched as Deputy Josh Davis and Officer Robert Gardner carried a wreath of red, white and blue roses across a paved path to the Law Enforcement Memorial.
Their faces solemn, Davis and Gardner laid the wreath in honor and remembrance of Wayne County’s fallen heroes during Wednesday’s annual Law Enforcement Memorial Service at Wayne Community College.
“Those of us who wear the badge realize that we are living in dangerous times,” said Goldsboro Police Chief Mike West. “We understand the risks.
“This understanding lends even more meaning to this ceremony. May we always honor and never forget our fallen officers.”
On Oct. 1, 1962, President John F. Kennedy proclaimed May 15 of each year as Peace Officers Memorial Day in honor of federal, state and local law enforcement officers who were killed or disabled in the line of duty. Wayne County residents remember and honor officers who gave their life to their service each year during a ceremony featuring members of the Goldsboro and Wayne County Honor Guard.
“Each day, more than 900,000 law enforcement officers across America put their lives on the line for the safety and protection of the communities in which we live, we work and our children play,” West said. “They serve their communities proudly and with honor and distinction.
“Throughout history, there have been over 20,000 law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.”
Of those 20,000 officers who died in the line of duty, 11 were from Wayne County.
In 2018, 163 officers across the United States died in the line of duty, nine of which were from North Carolina, said Sheriff Larry Pierce. This year, 40 officers have lost their lives serving their communities, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page, a nonprofit organization dedicated to honoring fallen law enforcement officers.
“This is a stunning number. It is a number that truly should give us cause to reflect,” Pierce said. “These brave officers, both men and women, whose backgrounds and stories are as diverse as our nation itself, gave their lives to protect our safety and defend our freedoms.
“They each gave, as Lincoln said, the last full measure of devotion, not only to the country we love so dearly, but also to our communities.”
The memorial service came just four days after K9 Officer Jordan Harris Sheldon, 32, with the Mooresville Police Department, was killed in the line of duty, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page. Sheldon was shot and killed during a traffic stop on West Plaza Drive around 10 p.m. Saturday. He served the Mooresville Police Department for six years.
Donna Best, wife of Capt. Jerry K. Best, who was killed in the line of duty on Nov. 13, 2002, attended the ceremony with her husband’s sister, Paulette Suggs, mother, Daisy Best, and niece, Kylie Sledge. Best and her family has attended the memorial service for the last 16 years.
Best and her family said they appreciate all the support her husband’s co-workers and friends and the law enforcement community provide, she said.
“We appreciate so much the effort the community puts into making the law enforcement memorial service,” said Best.