By Brandi Underwood
OAK HILL —
“There’s a thin blue line which runs through the center of darkness,” said Lt. Randall Shannon Prince, of the Oak Hill Police Department, addressing the small crowd that gathered in Fayetteville High School’s auditorium Thursday as part of the annual Police Memorial Service, held by Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 118.
“The darkness represents the evil in this world,” Prince continued. “The line that stands between good and evil, the barrier that serves those in need and protects us from evil amongst us, is thin because a few dare to stand it.”
Prince’s poignant message detailed the sacrifices and acts of heroism that officers commit each day, including missing holidays and family events and seeing their fellow men and women killed in the line of duty.
“They salute the casket of a fallen officer, knowing they very well could be the next one called home,” Prince said.
“They do all of these things without hesitation, without fear, knowing that there is a job to be done,” Prince continued
Since June 20, 1863, 199 West Virginia police officers have died in the line of duty. The date on which they lost their life is known as their “end of watch.”
Following Prince’s speech, Fayetteville Police Chief Matt Jeffries, Fayette Sheriff Steve Kessler, Oak Hill Police Chief Mike Whisman and Montgomery Police Chief John Kauff read the roll call of honor, a list of the names of the 199 fallen officers, the date of their end of watch and the department for which they served.
“Today is the day that we remember these brave men, and more than 20,000 others who have laid down their life to protect ours,” said Prince. “Today we honor those men and women, we honor the families. Their legacy, their story, will not be forgotten.”
Susie Smith of Sophia had tears streaming down her cheeks during the memorial service as she remembered her son, Detective Corporal Charles “Chucky” Eugene Smith II, a fallen officer of the Beckley Police Department. His end of watch was Aug. 29, 2006.
A framed photo of Smith was displayed on an easel as part of the service, accompanied by a photo of Fayette County Deputy Sheriff Roger Lee Treadway, whose end of watch was Oct. 8, 1975.
Smith said that the loss of her son has never gotten easier, but she tries to look back on the good parts of his life, rather than focusing on that tragic day.
“I’m very proud of my son,” said Smith. “He was wonderful, he was funny. He had a great sense of humor.”
Libby Campbell of Ansted, mother of Sgt. Shawn Campbell of the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office, attended the service to honor police officers both here and gone, she said.
“It’s really hard as a mom to sit there and listen to all of the names be called off,” said Campbell. “I wake up every morning and say a prayer that my son will get to come home every night.”
Campbell said that she believes it’s important for citizens to pay respect to law enforcement officers both here and gone, because the risk their lives to protect ours.
“The least that we can do is pray for them everyday, and when we see them to say thank you,” said Campbell. “We not always agree with everything they do, but they do it for us.”
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