Chesterton Tribune



Porter County Sheriff Department memorial service honors fallen officers

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The colors were posted, taps were played, three volleys were sounded, and moments of silence were held in memory of four officers in front of the Porter County Sheriff’s Department on Friday.

“Each played a significant role in this department and each played a significant role in our lives,” said Sheriff David Lain.

The PCSP held the ceremony at the end of National Police Week, May 12-18, along with the annual inspection of the fleet. Lain said the event coincides with the anniversary of the death of Officer Phillip Pratt, who lost his life in a fatal motorcycle crash while off-duty on May 16, 2012.

Also remembered were:

-- Officer Edward Blakely, who was killed on Nov. 28, 1961, while checking on a suspicious vehicle on Sedley Road in Union Twp. He served three years with the department.

-- Officer Timothy Hecht, who suffered a heart attack during a training exercise on Feb. 11, 1999. He served eight years with the department.

-- Officer Robert Hardesty, who suffered a fatal spinal injury from a fall during a training exercise at the FBI Headquarters in Quantico, Va. on June 2, 2005. He became an officer with the PCSP in 1994 and joined the FBI in 2001.

Lain said that their deaths were not “expected,” but they were “accepted” by families and fellow officers because they were willing to sacrifice themselves for the safety of and service to their communities.

“Officers prepare for their final day the first day they put on their uniform,” Lain said. “These four names are hallowed. They all died doing what they loved in the line of duty.”

Lain credited officers’ commitment to service and readiness to an attitude that develops within them after just months on the job.

The ceremony’s keynote speaker Tom Ridge -- a former Pennsylvania Governor, U.S. Congressman and the first U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security --said it is that attitude Lain mentioned, combined with an aptitude, that gives officers the ability to act in “split-second life and death situations.”

Ridge told the PCSCP officers sitting in the audience row by row that the work of an officer is an “indispensable part of our country’s success” by shielding the public.

The valor and sacrifices that officers make often go unnoticed, Ridge said. In a society where the lives and habits of celebrities are much more celebrated than those who serve, there still stands “the common belief in the value of heroism,” said Ridge, which is why we pay homage to the fallen officers.

“In this community, they were the rock stars. They were the celebrities. Our love for them and the sadness in losing them are immeasurable,” said Ridge. “It’s about service and safety. It’s not about fame and recognition.”

The pledge that these officers take is one that will not diminish, he continued. Threats to our country never go away, as was seen in the Boston Marathon bombings last month, and for each generation of officers there is a moment where they must confront such a challenge, said Ridge. Every generation so far has succeeded in overcoming those challenges, Ridge said.

When donning the uniform of public service, it isn’t just the officer who wears it but his or her whole family, Ridge said.

“They are America’s daily heroes, and all of us had better be there for them,” said Ridge.

Mentioning the ultimate sacrifices paid by Blakely, Hecht, Hardesty and Pratt, Ridge said people should not forget how they watched over their communities and that their spirits will be carried on by protecting what was most precious to them -- family, friends, community, country and freedom.

“Our pride in them is our salvation,” he said to the audience which included families, former sheriffs and PCSP retirees, and representatives of the County Courts system.

Ridge spent the early part of the morning talking one-on-one with the members of the PCSP getting to know their stories during the annual inspection.

“It really has been a great day for me,” he said.

Introductory remarks were made by former PCSP chief Doug Snider who said that Hecht was his best friend and “the best human being on the planet.” Honoring these men helps give purpose to their lives, he said.

Pastor Jay Birky, in the invocation, read a Bible verse he found fitting which says, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for a brother.”

Two students from the Chesterton High School Band, Robert Rosenau and Zach Dickinson, played taps on their trumpets and students from John Simatovich Elementary School sang the National Anthem.

Also, PCSP Sgt. Larry LaFlower introduced the winner of the countywide “Why a Police Officer Makes Me Feel Safe” school essay contest, Chandler Hawk, a fourth grader at Brummitt Elementary.

Hawk stood at the podium and read his entire essay to the crowd.

“There are many ways police officers make me feel safe. Every day of the year and every hour of the day they are on duty protecting people from all kinds of dangers. They are always on duty and only a phone call away. I know if I ever need them. I can call at any time and they’ll be there for me,” he read.






Posted 5/21/2013