A color guard, bagpipes, a 21-gun salute — the elements coming together form a proper memorial service to honor the departed.
Members of several police departments, the sheriff’s department, state Department of Corrections and the criminal justice system gathered Wednesday for the 17th annual Centre County Law Enforcement Memorial Ceremony at the courthouse.
The words of the officers filled the courthouse plaza, the music swelled and the shots of the salute echoed throughout the borough, honoring the 128 law enforcement officers who paid the ultimate sacrifice in 2014.
State College Police Chief Tom King welcomed the officers and others in attendance, thanking them for taking a moment of their time to recognize the men and women who gave their lives. He also took a moment to thank the officers who go out day after day to provide support to their communities, dedicating their time and support.
Rep. Scott Conklin, D-Rush Township, provided the keynote address.
“When asked to be here, I told Chief King it’s an honor and privilege to stand on the same stage and give tribute to the men and women I respect more and more every day,” he said. “There are no words I could say or any thoughts I could give that could fully encompass what great deeds they do.”
Conklin said he grew up understanding the meaning of the badge and what each officer does, but also learning how to look past the badge at the person wearing it — seeing the Little League coach, the fellow church member or the community volunteer and knowing why they choose to protect their communities.
The county commissioners were invited to make the proclamation for National Police Officers Memorial Day, observed on May 15.
“I was sitting just up the street when I was a young lad when Ronald Seymore was gunned down just across the street,” Commissioner Steve Dershem said, saying he’s constantly reminded of the dangers law enforcement endures on our behalf.
Bellefonte Police Officer Ronald Seymore was shot and killed Oct. 19, 1971, at the intersection of Allegheny Street and West High Street. A plaque embedded in the sidewalk marks the place where he died.
Dershem also thanked the families of the fallen officers for enduring the loss.
The names of all 128 officers were read aloud by District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller, Centre County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Mike Lorenzo, FBI agent Meghan Crooks, Trooper Scott Rossman, Centre County Probation Department Director Thomas Young, Rockview state prison Capt. Richard Greene and State College Police Department Assistant Chief John Gardner.
Gardner took a moment to pay special tribute to State College’s own Officer Robert Bradley, who passed away Feb. 9.
“His dedication to the job, his family and his community were three of his greatest qualities,” he said. “He will be forever missed.”
Following the ceremony, sheriff’s department Sgt. Bryan Sampsel, who was part of the 21-gun salute, said the event is a great occasion to be involved with, especially with the recent death of a local officer. He said he was also glad his children, Cole, 3, and Hannah, 6, were able to make it out to appreciate the officers.
“It’s important to bring them out and show them all that law enforcement does,” Sampsel’s wife Ruth said.