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The final goodbyes have begun for the officers slain in an ambush shooting and it will be a particularly difficult few days for the friends and family of our three fallen heroes.
"Death is so hard to accept only because we can't possibly understand the beauty of what's coming," said Dave Mulkey, best friend. "I'd like to think that Matt's looking down smiling – but he's probably so enthralled with the beauty of you right now. When we make it to eternity we'll realize that this life on Earth is but a snap of a finger of what's coming."
Thousands of people attended the funeral service for Officer Matthew Gerald, 41, of the Baton Rouge Police Department, at Healing Place Church on Friday. It started around 11 a.m. and ended just before 1 p.m.
"We have to set aside our differences and join together and understand the meaning of the word respect," said Mayor Kip Holden. "Respect means you give honor to the men and women who put on uniforms. They respect you – respect them."
Following the funeral was a procession to his final resting place at the Louisiana National Cemetery in Zachary.
Gerald lived in Denham Springs. He was a former Marine and Black Hawk Crew Chief in the US Army. He achieved the rank of corporal and served from Oct. 11, 1994 to Oct. 10, 1998. During his service, he received the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal and the National Defense Service Medal.
"He showed true valor. He laid his life down to protect his community and country," said Justin Badeaux, Gerald's brother-in-law. "He felt his country was worth so much more than his life."
Gerald graduated from the Baton Rouge Police Academy in March 2016. According to his wife, Gerald had only just been released to work on his own on July 5. Gerald leaves behind a wife and two daughters.
"Matthew Gerald answered that call last Sunday as he always did," said Baton Rouge Police Chief Carl Dabadie Jr. "As a man with the most courage, the most compassion, an officer with a brave heart and a generous soul. A son who made his parents proud and a friend who you could always count on."
Gerald was one of six officers shot during the ambush shooting. It happened at roughly 8:40 a.m. on Sunday, July 17 less than a mile from BRPD Headquarters.
"The courage Matt showed on July 17, 2016 will never be duplicated or forgotten," said Badeaux. "He was a true hero and I will tell my kids when they grow old and to anyone who will listen to me."