The law enforcement agencies of Jones County commemorated local and national heroes, including a special memorial to former Laurel Police Chief Tyrone Stewart, during the annual Peace Officer Memorial ceremony on Wednesday at the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art.
Stewart died unexpectedly following a brief hospitalization in January after serving on the Laurel police force for 25 years. His acts of love and respect for others, along with his kind and courageous legacy, will live on through Laurel and the community forever, those who served with him said. He was only 48 years old. A photo of Stewart was displayed at the front, along with a star-shaped spray and a U.S. flag with a black-and-blue line through it.
“I heard a preacher say that it is OK to be angry and it is OK to be mad, because from that comes a lot of different things,” said guest speaker Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann. “I think the preacher was right, because from that anger comes a lot of healthy emotion and a resolution comes out of that as well and that resolution is one of hope and one of respect.
“We should resolve that anger into respect and think about these men and women every day and speak to them when we see them, thank them for what they do for us and show them the support that they deserve. Because we may not still be standing here today if it weren’t for their protection.”
Immediately following the program, a procession traveled to Bethlehem Baptist Church for a wreath-laying ceremony at the gravesite of Deputy Randy Chancellor.
Deputy Chancellor was killed when a drunk driver smashed into his patrol car head-on while he was responding to a call on Feb. 28, 2001. Like Stewart, he was 48 when he died.
“It is our privilege, as well as our responsibility, to pray for those who protect and serve us. These officers lay their life on the line every single day and we as a nation and right here in our community need to offer them more respect and gratitude for what they do,” Pastor Carlton McNeer of Faithview Baptist Church said in the closing prayer.
Local law enforcement agencies that participated included the Jones County Sheriff’s Office, the Ellisville Police Department, the Jones College Campus Police, the Laurel Police Department, the Sandersville Police Department and the Soso Police Department.
There have been 144 officers killed in the line of duty so far this year in the United States.
In respect for fallen officers, a Table of Honor was set to respect those who are no longer here, Sheriff Alex Hodge said. He read through the meaning of each item on the table and what they represent:
“The table, with its place setting, is a way of symbolizing the fact that members of our profession are missing from this event.
“The table is set for one, though the number is many.
“The chair is empty. They can no longer join us.
“The tablecloth is white, symbolizing the purity of their intentions to serve their communities.
“The candle is lit, symbolizing their spirit to serve.
“The glass inverted, they cannot drink nor toast with us this day.
“A slice of lemon is on the bread plate to remind us of their bitter fate.
“The single red rose displayed in the vase is to remind us of their families and loved ones.
“The salt upon the plate symbolic of their tears.
“The blue ribbon tied so prominently around the vase reminds us of the ‘Thin Blue Line’ which stands strong before those who destroy law and order in our great nation.”
Hodge added, “Many of us served with these peace officers and called them ‘partner’ and relied upon them; depended upon their might and their aid. We called them brother and we called them sister. They watch over us still and we honor them today and forever.”