HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - A wreath laying ceremony means as much to the family of Trooper Bruce Ladner as it did 31 years ago.
Ladner was shot to death in the line of duty at age 33. While his family continues to mourn him, they thank the Mississippi Highway Patrol for never forgetting him or his service.
The simple ceremony, held every year at Ladner's grave site in Harrison County, has been a big part of the family's recovery. "It is part of the healing process when you see your lost loved one being honored. People paying respects and doing that time after time, doing it every year," said son Brandon Ladner.
Brandon was only 11 when his father was killed, but he knows very well what kind of man he was. "He really saw himself as a public servant," Brandon said. "It wasn't just something written on the side of a car. It was something embedded in his heart."
It hasn't been easy to process. "I come out every year," said his son Damon Ladner. "And, you know, you just get overwhelmed with the emotions every time. I was 13. It's been a long journey, but we have to move on and be examples to the ones who follow us. That's what we're trying to do."
Ceremonies like this were done at the same time throughout the state for the 33 MHP troopers who died in the line of duty, including five officers in this region. "It means a lot to us and our family," Damon said. "I think it means a lot to the families that are out there and the young law enforcement officers that are coming up."
For the MHP, these recognitions are not optional. "We always say the slogan, 'Gone, but Never Forgotten,' " said Chase Elkins, public information officer with the Highway Patrol. "We like to do this to make sure that slogan is not just a slogan, but it's the truth."
They get back what they give. "It gives us pride and integrity," Elkins said. "It gives us something to fight for, a reason to stand tall."
Damon Ladner said this observation shows the character of law enforcement. "This day and time, there's so much violence against law enforcement, I feel like it makes a good statement about who they really are."
The following Troopers in this region gave their lives in the line of duty:
Cyril J. Reichert; end of watch: Feb. 5, 1947
Joseph A. Pol; end of watch: Nov. 27, 1965
William Kenny, end of watch: Dec. 21,1967
David Bruce Ladner; end of watch: April 12, 1987
Paul Denham; end of watch: Dec. 27, 1999