Strength, Honor and Sacrifice

Like many other folks in our region, I was shocked to learn of the murder of Pennsylvania state Trooper Landon Weaver in neighboring Huntingdon County. It was a senseless tragedy that underscores the challenges and danger that law enforcement and their families are exposed to every day.

I am a county commissioner, not a law enforcement officer, but I have had the privilege to work with many police, sheriff’s deputies and other LE personnel in a multitude of capacities. Thanks to my father, I have always held the mission of law enforcement, at all levels, in the highest regard. That is why, when I was invited by a group of retired state police officers to attend the funeral of Trooper Weaver, I felt compelled to go with them.

I always knew there was a strong law enforcement family, I always knew there was a camaraderie, but until I witnessed the love and respect displayed by members of their profession from around the country, I had no idea how strong those bonds were. I was also heartened to see the outpouring of support from the citizens they protect.

There were police, sheriffs and federal agents from across the country. New York sent a legion of officers and ceremonial teams, Pittsburgh sent officers, a drum and bagpipe unit and many, many motorcycles. Units from Georgia, Missouri, Connecticut, Maryland and many more were represented. I witnessed officers from every Centre County police department in attendance. There were literally thousands of Pennsylvania state police personnel, with every troop and barracks represented. Miles of law enforcement vehicles lined up in a massive light display of respect for the family of their fallen brother.

The funeral service was reverent and inspirational. The eulogies from the governor and commissioner of the state police were uplifting. The eulogy and testimony from Trooper Weaver’s wife, Macy, brought a tear of both pain and joy to every eye in the room. Her poise, strength and commitment to her husband left everyone in absolute awe. Landon’s dream of a life of love and service was cut short. Trooper Weaver’s PSP cadet class sat upfront, the troopers from the Huntingdon barracks and those of Troop G were give special seating at the memorial. Everyone there, from family and friends, command staff and fellow law enforcement all felt the gravity of the loss of the 23-year-old hero. I know I did.

The funeral procession was nothing short of amazing. All along the route, whole families, braving the bitter cold, hands clutched over their hearts, hundreds and hundreds sharing the loss of a revered member of the community. That went on for miles. Words alone cannot do justice…there truly was a great spirit of patriotism and loss in every heart along that route. In a country that can appear at times divided, this display of unity was striking.

The internment service still brings chills as I reflect upon it. The honor guard folding the United States flag to crisp perfection, Commissioner Blocker’s presentation of that flag to the widow, again all under the watchful and respectful protection of hundreds of Trooper Weaver’s fellow officers. That brotherhood and sisterhood is strong.

I want to thank my retired state police friends who helped me understand the details and significance of the ceremonies, from the police helicopter fly over to the very emotional and stirring End of Watch radio call, the tones and message heard by every on-duty Pennsylvania state trooper across our commonwealth.

As I reflect on all the events that I observed, one message was resoundingly clear. The absolute reassurance of Trooper Weaver’s family that the strength and commitment of the entire Pennsylvania state police and law enforcement community stood with them that day and every day into the future. God bless our protectors and please keep all of our first responders in your prayers.

Steve Dershem is a Centre County commissioner