GONZALES, LA (WAFB) - A ceremony was held in Ascension Parish on Friday to celebrate the careers of Louisiana law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty this past year.
The officers in attendance stood proudly as they saluted their brothers and sisters who served with honor and respect. But on this day, some of them found it hard to find the strength to fight the pain in their hearts.
Ascension Parish Sheriff Jeff Wiley reflected on a banner displaying the faces of the twelve Louisiana law enforcement officers who paid the ultimate sacrifice.
"Each and every one of them has a story. You see a picture of each and every one of them, strong faces, their hearts, committed individuals," Wiley said.
They were taken too soon to tell their own stories. But their loved ones were there to make sure they are never forgotten. The wives of East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Deputy Brad Garafola and Baton Rouge Police Corporal Montrell Jackson, two of the three men in uniform killed in a horrific ambush last summer, encouraged public servants to strive to make a difference in someone's life every day.
"He helped so many people in so many ways that I didn't even know was possible until after his death. The stories that were told to me, I wasn't surprised because I knew that was the man I married," Tonja Garafola said.
"Before my husband was taken away from this earth he asked that we would not let hate infect our hearts. I encourage you to repeat that quote every time you begin to question your calling," Trenisha Jackson said.
Representatives from each of the fallen officers' families reflected as Ascension Parish Lt. Laura Gremillion read aloud the officers' names and recalled the last time he or she was called to duty.
It was especially hard on EBR Sheriff Sid Gautreaux who lost two deputies in ten months.
"They were true public servants, all of them and that's why anyone in law enforcement is in law enforcement for the right reasons have that true servant heart and that true servant mentality. I think it's very important that we as a law enforcement community do not forget," Gautreaux said.
A single red rose was presented to their families followed by a prayer and a final salute for the brave men and women who took an oath to serve and protect.
The Ascension Parish Sheriff has hosted the memorial service the last five years.