Hawkins County Sheriff Ronnie Lawson, right, presents roses to family members of fallen deputies during Wednesday’s Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial Ceremony at the Justice Center in Rogersville. Jeff Bobo photo.
ROGERSVILLE — Hawkins County’s fallen deputies and their families were honored Wednesday for their sacrifices as part of a law enforcement memorial ceremony that Sheriff Ronnie Lawson intends to make an annual event.
The Hawkins County Justice Center hosted the inaugural Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial Ceremony outside the Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office.
The special guests Wednesday were family members of the county’s three fallen deputies: Gerald Monroe “Bubba” Gibson, who was killed in the line of duty July 13, 2000; John Wesley Wright, who was killed in the line of duty Aug. 16, 1988; and Drew Harrell, who died on June 15, 1937, as a result of injuries in the line of duty three days earlier.
The ceremony included a welcome by Chief Deputy Tony Allen; the invocation by the Rev. Darius Horne; a stirring rendition of the national anthem by Rogersville performer Michael Frost; presentation of colors and playing of Taps by the Kingsport Police Department Honor Guard; and a 21-gun salute by the HCSO SWAT team.
Lawson and Lt. Chad Gillenwater presided over a rose ceremony honoring the families.
Lawson also offered a few words, saying that the sacrifice of fallen Hawkins County officers and fallen officers across the nations will not be forgotten.
“If there is any bright spot to be found through the tragedies of the lives lost that we honor here today and the far too many lost throughout the years, it is that they bring us closer together,” Lawson said. “It is our solidarity in mourning and commitments to honoring their lives that strengthen us to work together. Together we can strive toward ending violence against those who dedicate their lives to protecting our communities.”
Lawson added, “To those we honor here today who have made the ultimate sacrifice, the words thank you will never be enough, but we are so very thankful. To the families and friends of those we honor here today, we offer our eternal gratitude for sharing your loved one and their special gift to serve and protect with all of us. We extend to you our continued support and promise that their heroic and ultimate sacrifices will never be in vain.”
The keynote address was presented by longtime HCSO deputy and department chaplain the Rev. Jim Hagy, who is currently a member of the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office.
Hagy noted that as a police officer for more than three decades, he has made sacrifices of lost family time and potential salary he could have made at a better paying job. He added, however, that his sacrifices pale in comparison to what the fallen police officers and their families have sacrificed.
“The Bible says in John 15:13 that greater love has no one than he who will lay down his life for a friend,” Hagy said. “There’s time in our job when we have to lay down our life, not only for a friend, but there’s times officers have laid their lives down for someone they had never met, someone they didn’t even know. They have laid down their lives for people who didn’t like the uniform, who didn’t like our job, and they didn’t like what the badge stood for. But still yet, they were willing to give all to protect and serve.”
Hagy said law enforcement is a calling. He said a hero is someone who does what needs to be done, no matter the consequences. He said heroes are those who run in when everybody else is running out.
“Today we honor the memory of those heroes who have paid the ultimate price. But also today, I would like to pay honor and to recognize the family of those heroes. We should always remember them and pray for them, that God will give them strength to carry on, and that God, somehow, will fill the empty spot they feel in their heart because of the loved one they lost.”