Tears flow as Tipton finds strength to praise fallen
By Lela Garlington The Commercial Appeal
MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Seven red roses. Seven lives remembered.
Almost 250 people gathered Tuesday at the Tipton County Criminal Justice Complex in Covington to honor local law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty.
Most recent among them was Trooper Calvin Jenks of the Tennessee Highway Patrol, killed in January when he stopped two Texas teenagers who had driven to Tennessee to sell marijuana.
Throughout the country, similar ceremonies commemorated National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Week, recognizing those who gave their lives for their profession. In addition to a 21-gun salute, the flag flew at half-staff Tuesday during the presentation of colors. Bagpipes played and children sang "God Bless the USA." Tears flowed freely as survivors placed a single rose on a wreath.
Sheriff J.T. "Pancho" Chumley greeted the crowd, saying he saw the strength in numbers.
"It's hard for me to speak, being a survivor of a fallen officer myself," he said.
Chumley's half-brother, Covington police officer Charles Lanny Bridges, who was killed in 1997, was among those who were recognized.
For Chumley, such ceremonies are moving and emotional to surviving family members, but he added, "It keeps the memory of the officer alive."
U.S. Marshal David Jolley noted that this year 11 officers from Tennessee were added to the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington, which honors almost 18,000 people.
"Sometimes, our agencies may squabble," he said, "but when one of our colleagues goes down, we draw together with great unity. We rally around each other and the surviving family. Each officer has a story that is unique to their lives and those of their survivors."
He urged the crowd to listen to their stories:
"Grieve for the daughter who will walk down a wedding aisle alone or with someone other than her Dad. Feel the anguish of the widow who still wakes at dawn and reaches across the bed hoping - for just a moment - to find her husband quietly sleeping after the midnight shift."