ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. – This week is National Law Enforcement Week, and southwest Virginia police departments are taking a look back at their pride and their history, but also their pain.
The "Officer Down" memorial in front of the Roanoke City Police Department is a reminder of what can happen. Thurdsay, departments from all across the region, not just Roanoke, gathered together for a memorial service to remember those who went to work and never came home.
At St. John Lutheran Church in Roanoke County, a bell rang out for each name, a picture was shown for each face and the crowd of about 200 took a moment of solace for each person who gave it all.
Craig Harris is the chief of the Virginia Western Community College Police Department and also the chair of the 2019 Roanoke Valley Law Enforcement Memorial Committee.
"We wrap our arms around the families of the fallen and wrap our arms around the community and let them know that we want you here, we're a part of you, you're a part of us," Harris said.
The service was a short but impactful one to honor the 42 men and women who gave their lives for this region in the line of duty.
"If you ask anyone on the street, 'How many officers do you think have been killed in the line of duty in the last hundred years in Roanoke?' they would never come to the number that we have," Harris said.
Retired Roanoke Valley Jjudge Philip Trompeter gave the keynote remarks this year. He asked people to keep a heart of gratefulness not only for those who have fallen, but those who continue to wear the uniform every day.
"It is important that we give tribute to their service and understanding that they're human beings. These are not robots," Trompeter said. "This isn't a videogame. They can't just come back to life after being killed or quickly recover from an injury."
The hallmark of this event is the fellowship that comes with it. Every day, officers go to work with the thought of their fallen officers on their mind, knowing the risk that they or someone they know could be at risk, too.
"It's important that we hold this service to let the public come in and become closer to us and know that we're just people who do a difficult job at times," Harris said.
It's a difficult job that comes with the ultimate pain, and as the last bell was rung, they hoped that could be the forever end of the roll call.
There were 12 different departments represented in Thursday's service, and there were also people there from the federal level. They said events like this help keep them in the right headspace to keep moving forward.