Ceremony honors fallen heroes
The dates went back as far as 1930, the deaths equally tragic and strangely honorable.
As the chaplain read the names of the fallen, a member of the Fort Myers Color Guard lit the little electric blue flames. A solemn hush fell over the crowd while the sky burned a deep orange on the banks of the Caloosahatchee River.
It was a poetic, if not fitting, tribute as law enforcement agencies from around the county gathered in remembrance of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice to a profession, and an ideology, that puts lives on the line on a daily basis.
It was all part of Project Blue Light, a national program inspired by the nationally-recognized practice of using blue lights in holiday decorations to honor fallen and living law enforcement officers.
The practice began in 1988 when the mother-in-law of a Philadelphia police department officer killed in the line of duty 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 that year.
Making its debut in Lee County, the 1st Annual Project Blue Light Memorial Ceremony paid tribute to 18 law enforcement officers who were killed in the line of duty, or who died representing a Lee County law enforcement agency, over the last 78 years.
Using holiday wreaths adorned with blue lights, various speakers took turns sharing their thoughts and emotions Thursday at Centennial Park in downtown Fort Myers.
State Sen. Burt Saunders, R-Naples, spoke about the quality of life in Southwest Florida, and how law enforcement keeps the region safe so that quality can continue.
“If you don’t feel safe on the beaches, if you don’t feel safe in your homes, if you don’t feel safe in the streets, then you don’t have a good quality of life,” he said.
Members of the Fort Myers Police, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office and the Lee County Port Authority Police have all died while serving their particular departments.
Bob Pastula, a member of the United States Marshal’s Office, said there is “little to say or do to truly honor those who served,” and turned to the families of law enforcement to offer his condolences.
The ceremony indeed paid tribute to those families as much as those who paid with their lives.
“We have not forgotten these families,” Saunders said finally. “We love you and will always be thankful.”
For more information, visit: leecountybadgeofhonor.org or nationalcops.org.