NORTH TONAWANDA, N.Y . — It was a night of honor, patriotism and sadness as Niagara County police agencies honored their fallen comrades Tuesday during an annual Interfaith Memorial Service in St. Matthew's Lutheran Church.
The service, hosted by the Niagara Interfaith Chaplaincy, featured nearly 40 members of the Interagency Color Guard in dress uniform, standing at attention. Outside, the strains of taps wafted through the open window after a 21-gun salute.
Salvadore "Sam" Incardona, who led the Pledge of Allegiance, lost his son, Niagara County Sheriff's Deputy Jeffrey Incardona, in July 1993 when the deputy was involved in an accident while rushing to the side of a fellow officer who had been shot.
Incardona said he and his family have been a part of the annual event since it began in Niagara County a decade ago.
Officers and families attending also took a collection to aid Buffalo Police Officer Patricia A. Parete, who was shot while on duty last December.
"The collection is something we have never done before, but a cervical spine wound has left Officer Parete a quadriplegic, and the money collected will go to a trust fund to help Officer Parete battle to breathe [better] and regain the use of her limbs," said Niagara Falls Police Chaplain Patrick J. Bradley, who hosted the event.
The Rev. Joseph Moreno, guest speaker from St. Lawrence Catholic Church in Buffalo, told officers, "You represent life, hope, courage and trust to the community you serve. People have an effect on you and you have an effect on them. Do the best you can to help."
Prior to the service, Bradley said that the event is offered on a national level to remind the public just how dangerous a police officer's job can be.
Niagara Falls Police Superintendent John Chella said after the service that this year has been fraught with loss for officers in the State Police and said a special service also will be held Friday in Batavia for Troop A.
"Our hearts really go out to them," said Chella.
Sheriff Thomas Beilein said a memorial service is important for officers and survivors.
"It lets them know that their loved ones will never be forgotten. The honor guard look at this as a way to pay tribute to their fallen brothers, and it reminds everyone of how serious the job is," Beilein said.
The Rev. Susan C. Keppy, the Lewiston police chaplain who co-organized the event with Bradley, said officers have to deal with negatives every day but also are there for the public when someone needs to deal with something like an armed intruder.
"They pay a terrible cost for this service, and it's very dear to my heart," Keppy said. "Every Saturday night, I go to the national Web site to see what officers have died, and we pray for them on Sunday. It's a real eye opener. It's rare when no one has died."
The North Tonawanda Police Department also took a moment of the evening in its hometown to honor its longtime chaplain, the Rev. Adolph W. Moldenhauer, pastor at St. Matthew Lutheran Church.
As the service closed, Moldenhauer reminded the officers of their service to their families as well as the community, saying, "We need you people, we pray for you. You are important, but as a [spouse] and [parent], that comes first."
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