Fallen Gulfport police officers are remembered - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Fallen Gulfport police officers are remembered

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

By Doug Walker – bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Gulfport Deputy Chief Leonard Papania said it best when he told the audience, "The officers you see every day, doing what they do, live with the understanding that they too could become a name on this monument." 

Somber faces listened intently to those somber words, a remembrance of the eight men who gave their lives in service to their city. Friday's police memorial ceremony was marked with other poignant touches: Flags flying at half staff, eight roses adorning a special marker, and flowers placed on the site with love and respect. 

"The strength and resolve of our brave policemen and policewomen is the essential fabric of this nation," Mayor George Schloegel said.  "This memorial is a tribute to those who dedicate their lives to public service and come to work each day to spread the foundation of peace." 

Even after many years have passed, the pain of a grieving family never goes away. But neither does the deep sense of pride.  Joe D.Spiers was killed in 1971.  His memory brings joy to the heart of his mother, Hilda Bennett. 

"It makes you real proud of him," Bennett said.  "He always wanted to be a policeman and it makes me proud of him." 

Tears of sadness and tears of pride were abundant at the ceremony, as was a prayer from the mayor.  

"We pray that you'll find some comfort and peace here today. We pray that you'll find strength in knowing that our city will always grieve with you."

It was a fitting tribute to the men and women who give some much on a daily basis, and ask for little in return. 

A coastwide police memorial service is planned for Sunday afternoon at 3pm on the grounds of the Church of the Redeemer on Highway 90 in east Biloxi.

The following is Gulfport Mayor George Schloegel's address titled "The Foundation of Peace" which he delivered at Friday's police memorial ceremony.

Good morning and thank you all for being here.

A memorial can never replace what those of you mourning a loved one have lost, but we pray that you will find some comfort and peace here today. We pray that you will find strength in knowing that our city will forever grieve with you.

In the coming months, we will open the doors to the new Robert J. Curry Public Safety Center. And this memorial will be returned back to its home downtown, on peaceful grounds next to the Curry Center.

For all our citizens, this memorial and others like it are lasting reminders of American resilience, American courage and the enduring spirit that makes our country so great. The strength and resolve of those brave men and women is the essential fabric of our nation.

This memorial is a tribute to those who dedicate their lives to public service and come to work each day to spread the foundation of peace.

Everyday in our cities and counties, these valiant souls kiss their spouses and leave for work in the morning knowing there is a chance they will not return. They help a young son pack his books for school, knowing there is a chance they will never get to teach him how to catch a baseball. They teach a baby daughter how to walk, knowing there is a chance they will not be there to walk her down the isle.

Here, at this solemn memorial, we remember those who have died while working to keep us safe. We mourn with the families they have left behind, and as a city — as a nation — we collectively thank you.

I would like to close by paraphrasing Abraham Lincoln: "Years from now, the words we say here today will not be remembered. But what they did here, will never be forgotten."

Thank you and may God bless you.

Copyright 2010 WLOX. All rights reserved.

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