Honoring their sacrifice

Law Enforcement Memorial Service pays tribute to fallen

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By Lance Coleman
Blount Today

State Rep. Doug Overbey honored service and sacrifice of the past in a memorial service for law enforcement officers last week, while making a statement in support of present law enforcement officers.

Blount County residents owe the seven law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty since 1911 a debt of honor to live lives worthy of their sacrifice, State Rep. Doug Overbey said. Residents also owe the law enforcement officers who are living compensation worthy of the risks they take, he said.

Overbey was the keynote speaker at the 2007 Blount County Law Enforcement Memorial Service held Thursday, May 17, at First Baptist Church, Maryville. It was held in conjunction with national Law Enforcement Memorial Week. About 200 people attended the service, including relatives of some of those officers or deputies killed in the line of duty.

Overbey admonished those listening to live lives worthy of the sacrifice the fallen officers made. "The officers we remember gave their lives so we might live better lives," he said. "We must live in a way that will make them proud."’

Overbey cited statistics that showed 66 officers died in the line of duty in 2006 in the United States. Overbey said law enforcement officers should be given the resources they need to do their jobs. "They are worthy of being compensated in a manner worthy of the risk they take," he said. "We need to make sure they have the resources they need from every level of government. It’s the least we can do for those who protect the rest of us."

On a screen at the front of the sanctuary, a quote summed up the fallen heroes: "It is not how these men died that made them heroes. It is how they lived." Kay Irwin began the ceremony with bagpipe music while Blount County Sheriff James Berrong, Alcoa Police Chief Ken Burge, Maryville Police Chief Tony Crisp and Overbey stood at the front of the sanctuary
near a memorial that showed pictures of the fallen officers.

Berrong said it was by order of the President of the United States that each year communities honor those men and women in law enforcement who have given their lives in the line of duty. Honored for the cities and county were Blount County Sheriff’s deputy William "Bill" Nichols (Oct. 7, 1956); Maryville police officers James Henry Clemons (Aug. 25, 1911), Barton Coker (Jan. 2, 1938) and John Michael Callahan, (Feb. 21, 1981); and Alcoa police officers William Johnson Hunt (July 7, 1937), Fred Guffey (Aug; 31, 1952) and Timothy Joe Hunt (April 20, 2000).

Overbey said law enforcement officers respond for duty daily with full knowledge they may be asked to make the ultimate sacrifice by giving their lives. "Commemoration is about honor, the highest respect we pay to officers for their selfless acts," he said. "We express our respect and love for those who have made that sacrifice. They made the ultimate sacrifice of their tomorrows so we can live in peace."

Overbey quoted scripture from John 15:13 in describing the importance of each officer’s sacrifice. "Great love hath none than this, that a man lay down his life for another," Overbey said. "Their courage and commitment showed the true measure of heroism."

Overbey told the relatives and friends of the deceased officers that nothing can be said to bring back their loved ones but he hoped they drew comfort from a grateful community. "We join together to remember their passing," he said. "When one officer falls, all within the family feel the loss of that family member."

Overbey also asked for prayers for the safety of the 850,000 law enforcement officers working throughout the nation.
Several family members of the fallen officers or deputies were on hand for the ceremony. When the name of their family member was called, they walked to the front of the sanctuary and left a rose at a memorial.

Betty Law, granddaughter of Marshal J.H. Clemons, was thankful for the service. "It’s wonderful," she said. "I think it’s wonderful they do this. We appreciate it."

Arta Mae Callahan, mother of John Michael Callahan, echoed Law’s comments. "I think it’s wonderful," she said.
"It gets better every year," said Margie Downey, a cousin of Callahan.

Timothy Hunt’s brother, Michael Hunt, said he appreciated the service. "Every year they have this, we all try to come," he said.

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