On Monday, the memory of those slain officers received a higher level of prominence.
KPD officials, along with officers and deputies of neighboring agencies, dedicated a new Law Enforcement Memorial and Eternal Flame. The dedication took place Monday afternoon before a crowd of more than 100 officers, city officials and members of the public.
The new memorial is located at the corner of Clay and Market in downtown Kingsport behind the Justice Center and includes a small monument and plaque with the names of 13 slain officers from Kingsport and Sullivan County.
The monument was previously located in front of the Justice Center. New to the memorial is an eternal flame, brick monument wall and gated enclosure.
KPD Chief David Quillin said the eternal flame is a way to remember the fallen officers and their sacrifices.
“As that flame burns eternally, our memory will last forever,” Quillin said.
Monday's dedication included comments from Sessions Court Judge Ray Conkin, a roll call of slain officers from our region, the laying of a wreath, a 21-gun salute and the playing of “Taps.”
Quillin said the memorial took four to five months to complete and would not have been possible without the hard work of some dedicated folks. One in particular recognized was KPD Sgt. John Blessing.
“It is my hope and prayer we never have to add a single name to this wall,” Quillin said.
The National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington D.C. has the names of 20,789 officers killed in the line of duty dating back to 1791. In the last 10 years, 1,439 officers have been killed across the country or about 141 a year.
Conkin said one about every 61 hours.
“The people we honor today have defined the word hero by their everyday actions in living out their lives,” Conkin said. “By their actions in putting aside their own well-being in order to protect and preserve an orderly society. They truly represent the thin blue line that separates society from anarchy.
Conkin added that some people in our society would try and tell you that law enforcement are the bad guys.
“By looking around us today we can see that is simply not true,” Conkin said.
In 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed a proclamation designating May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day with the week in which that date falls as National Police Week. Traditionally, the local Fraternal Order of Police (F.O.P.) Burgess-Mills Lodge #11 conducts a Law Enforcement Memorial Service at the Kingsport Justice Center during National Police Week.