BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Members of the community gathered outside Baton Rouge Police headquarters Monday for a balloon release on the one year anniversary of the deadly ambush attack on the city's law enforcement.
As balloons rose into the air, the two officers and one deputy killed in the line of duty were remembered as heroes.
"He was just a very humble person and he didn't deserve to die the way he did," said one of Montrell Jackson's classmates.
Cpl. Montrell Jackson, Officer Matthew Gerald, and East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office Deputy Brad Garafola lost their lives that awful Sunday, but now their memory lives on in the hearts and minds of those who knew them best.
"My foot never hits the floor that I don't think of him and Brad and Montrell the first thought in the morning," said Matthew's mom, Tish Gerald.
Gerald says it's hard to believe it has been a full year since the tragedy, but if she had to lose her son, she is proud to say he truly died doing exactly what he loved. "I knew that was his calling and that he was destined to be there at that time," Gerald said. "His life was improved tremendously as he entered the academy."
While they are no longer here, the biggest impact of their sacrifice can still be felt. The balloon release was organized not by law enforcement, but by the community they served.
"We wanted to show our support, our continued support to the officers and that we mourn with them and just to say that we thank you and appreciate everything y'all do for us," said Mackenzie Shaw.
"The love and the compassion that they've shown us and vice-versa through all of this it's been really remarkable," Sheriff Sid Gautreaux added.
With violence and hatred tightening its grip across the country, Gautreaux says while it's not perfect, if any community can rise above, it's Baton Rouge. "I've never seen a community come together like the Baton Rouge community has come together and we'll work through all of our problems because we are better people," said Gautreaux.
As the healing continues for the city, three heroes are gone, but certainly not forgotten.
"I'm confident, of course, for the greatest sacrifice all these guys gave, they're with our Lord," Gerald added.
While Baton Rouge still has work to do as the city continues to heal, those at the ceremony say they hope these three men did not die in vain.