Wreath lighting ceremony to honor local fallen officers
Officers who have fallen in the line of duty are gone but never forgotten — a motto the Lee County Badge of Honor organization lives by, and one that inspired the inaugural Project Blue Light Memorial Wreath Lighting Ceremony to be held tonight.
Project Blue Light was inspired by the nationally-recognized practice of using blue lights in holiday decorations to honor fallen and living law enforcement officers, according to the Lee County Badge of Honor’s Web site.
The practice began in 1988 when the mother-in-law of a Philadelphia police department officer who was killed placed two blue lights in her window over the holidays in honor of the officer and his widow, who was killed in a car crash, the Web site states.
In the local ceremony, 18 wreaths will be lit to honor those who were killed in the line of duty or who died while representing Lee County law enforcement agencies, as well as a fallen K-9.
Several of the families who have lost loved ones in law enforcement will attend the wreath lighting ceremony, said Lee County Badge of Honor member Matt Monahan.
“We’ve only received positive feedback,” he said. “They appreciate that their loved ones are being remembered and that they’re remembered. I think it brings peace to them that their loved ones are not forgotten.”
The ceremony will be held at Centennial Park in Fort Myers at 5:45 p.m., and will feature a rendition of “Amazing Grace” with bagpipes, a memorial gun salute and keynote speaker, former state Sen. Burt Saunders, along with several other speakers.
The Lee County Badge of Honor is a not-for-profit group made up of Lee County Sheriff’s Office employees who perform needed services for the families of fallen officers, such as mowing lawns and preparing food. They also send cards and gift baskets on the holidays to show their support during those times.
The program began earlier this year and was focused primarily on the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, but the death of Fort Myers Police Officer Andrew Widman hastened the program’s drive to expand to other agencies.
“The untimely death of Andrew Widman was kind of a catalyst to expand it into other agencies,” Monahan said. “(Though) it was always the plan to include all the law enforcement agencies in Lee County.”
Agency members include the Cape Coral Police Department, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, the Port Authority Police, the State Fire Marshal’s Office and the U.S. Marshal’s Service.
The wreath lighting ceremony is the culmination of the Project Blue Light calendar year, during which the Lee County Badge of Honor sold handcrafted wreaths with blue lights. The money raised from sales will be used for holiday gift baskets for families, and a limited amount of wreaths are still available.
Prices and information about Project Blue Light are listed on the Lee County Badge of Honor’s Web site, www.leecountybadgeofhonor.org.
A “First Responders Memorial” will likely be built by the Lee County Badge of Honor in the near future, Monahan said.