Community pauses to remember fallen officers

Published 11:24 pm Thursday, May 14, 2009

Time is said to be the great healer of a broken heart.

And Harold Watkins said time has made things a little easier.

“But I get by all right until they play ‘Taps’ and then I just can’t take it,” said Watkins, whose son, Officer Steve Watkins of the Troy Police Department, was killed in the line of duty Nov. 26, 1981.

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Watkins wiped tears from his eyes and then shook hands with those who wanted to express their condolences. Although it has been almost 28 years since Steve Watkins was shot and killed while responding to a domestic dispute, people still care.

As hard as it is, members of the Watkins’ family attend the Peace Officers Memorial Day services held annually in Troy during National Police Week in May.

“Time does have a way of making things a little better,” said Joanne Watkins, Steve’s mother. “It’s not nearly as hard as it was 20 years ago. But we know that Steve is in a better place, and we take comfort in that.”

Joanne Watkins understands the dangers police officers face each day, and said she keeps them in her prayers.

Troy Mayor Jimmy Lunsford spoke to the gathering at the Peace Officers Memorial Day service on Wednesday and said the community owes a great debt of gratitude to the men and women who serve and protect, not just on the local level but all across the state and nation.

“We owe them thanks more than mere words can say,” Lunsford said. “The police officers are soldiers in service and are committed to keeping their communities safe. But we want them to be aware and ready to protect themselves when they are protecting us.”

The names of five “fallen brothers” are listed on the memorial monument at Troy Municipal Park – Will G. Jackson, June 3, 1905; Hayden Youngblood, May 22, 1962; Cecil Sullivan, Nov. 12, 1967; Billy Dease, Jan. 15, 1968; and Steve Watkins, Nov. 26, 1981.

The mayor’s prayer is that there will never be another name to add.

Lunsford presented a proclamation declaring the Week of May 10 to May 16 Police Week in Troy.

“It is important that all citizens know and understand the duties, responsibilities, hazards and sacrifices of the officers of the Troy Police Department,” Lunsford said. “It is also important that the officers recognize their duties to serve the people by safeguarding life and property and by protecting them against violence and disorder and by protecting the innocent against deception and the weak against oppression.”

The mayor encouraged those in attendance to honor those law enforcement officers who, through their courageous deeds, have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their community.

“Let us pay respect to the survivors of our fallen heroes,” Lunsford said.

A memorial wreath was placed at the Troy Police Memorial Monument in memory and honor of those whose lives were given in service to others.

Sgt. Benny Scarbrough and Officer Ben Crawley presented a love offering to Geneva County Deputy Sheriff Josh Myers, whose wife and daughter, were killed during the shooting spree in Coffee and Geneva counties that took the lives of 10 people on March 19.

“Law enforcement is a close-knit group and we wanted to do something for this guy who has lost a part of his family,” Scarbrough said.

“The Troy Police Department donated to the fund and the Steve Watkins Memorial Lodge 57 Fraternal Order of Police matched the donations of the Troy Police Department. We were glad to be able to do something for one of our own.”