The wreath-laying ceremony begins National Police Week for RCSD
By W. Thomas Smith Jr.
The families of fallen deputies gathered at the gates of the Richland County Sheriff’s Department (RCSD) headquarters’ memorial garden for a special service honoring the families’ deceased loved ones, Monday, May 15, the date officially designated Police Officer Memorial Day by Pres. John F. Kennedy in 1962.
The RCSD-specific service, which included a wreath-laying ceremony inside the garden, was presided over by Sheriff Leon Lott and included music, prayers, a formation of smartly uniformed deputies, and a rifle-bearing honor guard presenting colors to the solemn beat of a single drum.
“Today is a very special day,” said Lott. “In Washington, they have a big wall inscribed with the names we have here on our wall, and they will have a big event. But I wanted us to do something here because today is about you all – the family members. It’s about letting you know that your loved one is not forgotten and that they will never be forgotten by us. They were all very special to all of us.”
Lott added “I was very fortunate in that I had the opportunity to work with everyone whose name is on this wall except for one. So I had the honor of knowing them personally… knowing how dedicated they were, the commitment that they made, and how much they loved wearing this uniform.”
Lott pointed to several recent additions and improvements made to the memorial garden which includes nightly illuminated flagpoles and a permanent seating area with a specially designed wrought-iron bench next to the existing memorial wall inscribed with the names of the fallen. The flagpoles and bench were part of Eagle Scout projects by Midlands-based Boy Scouts.
“You are all part of our Richland County Sheriff’s Department family, and you will always be part of our family,” said Lott. “You are families that we love and care about, and I promise you as we stand here today we will never forget your loved ones.”
Master Deputy Summer Pearrow sang the national anthem, and Deputy Chief Maria Yturria read the names of each fallen deputy including their end-of-watch dates.
“These are not just names,” said Lott. “Like each one of you here today, these are people we loved. We cared for them. We will continue to love them, and we will continue to love and care for you.”
RCSD Chaplain Chris Hutnyak delivered the benediction, and Captain Chris Duke formally laid the wreath, positioning it on a stand within the garden, after which Sheriff Lott began escorting the family members through the garden gate.