GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - In the long history of Gulfport's police department, eight officers have died in the line of duty. The first death was in 1900. The most recent loss was last August.
It was that tragedy -- the one where Rob Curry died while on patrol -- that made Friday's Gulfport police memorial service so emotional for so many of Curry's comrades.
Leonard Papania hosted the service.
"For our fallen officers, we could not prevent their untimely deaths," he told the crowd of 125 people. "But we, the Gulfport Police Department family will not let their memories ever be forgotten."
The police department honor guard then marched the American flag to a pole in front of the station house. Overhead, the heavens rumbled. The threat of rain hovered over this ceremony. The gloomy weather added to the aura of the moment. Police officers gathered to salute eight fallen comrades.
In many respects, this service was a lot like the previous six memorial ceremonies hosted by Gulfport. What made this one so unique, so heartwrenching, and so personal was the addition of Rob Curry to the city's memorial monument.
Just about everybody at this ceremony was with the department last August, when Lt. Curry lost his life while on patrol along Highway 49. Curry was 39 years old. He had a wife on the police force, and countless friends around the department.
Chris Baker may have been Curry's closest friend. He fought back tears while reading a list of the lieutenant's many accomplishments.
"Rob was not only a great man for the city, he was a great friend. He was always there when you needed him, through rough times in your personal life as well as your professional life," he said.
Curry spent 14 years on the Gulfport police force.
"Rob was a mentor and a leader to all here. Rob was a leader by example as he worked his way through the ranks. Rob showed great mentorship with the reserve officers, taking them in under his wing and helping mold some of them into the officers they are today," said Baker.
When his talk was done, Officer Baker placed a red rose at the base of the monument. A dispatcher's voice suddenly appeared on police radios.
"Please stand by for the final call," she said.
The dispatcher read the names and badge numbers of all eight falled officers. Curry, Dedeaux, Spiers, Scarborough, Tillman, Wolff, Dickey and Richardson. They all served and protected the city of Gulfport. They were eight Gulfport police officers who will always be in the hearts and the minds of the men and women in this department, and in the city.
Chaplain Coy Rice included this thought in his prayer for the fallen policemen.
"Let this memory Lord serve us well that we would understand what our officials are doing for us, what our officers are doing for us. And we pray for them as the bible tells us to," said Rice.
Officer Papania closed the service with a wish for his colleagues.
"Please keep all our officers in your thoughts and prayers that they may continue to perform professionally and make it to the end of their shift," he said.
Gulfport Police Chief Alan Weatherford missed the ceremony, because he was in Washington to represent the Curry family at a national memorial service. During that event, Lieutenant Curry's name was added to the National Law Enforcement Officers' Memorial Wall.