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A staff report

Elizabethtown, NC – On May 17, 2024, the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office held a Peace Officer Memorial at the Bladen County Law Enforcement Center to honor the sacrifice of local officers who died in the line of duty. The annual event coincided with National Peace Officer’s Memorial Day, underscoring the continued respect and remembrance for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

The ceremony was highlighted by the inaugural presentation of the colors by the newly established Honor Guard, realizing the late Captain Daniel Clark’s vision for the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office. The event was further graced by a rendition of the National Anthem, performed by Scott and Alyssa Bell, descendants of the fallen hero, Chief Marvin Bell. Adding a deeply personal touch to the occasion, Chief Bell’s father attended the event for the first time and expressed his profound gratitude for the tribute to his son and the ongoing remembrance of all fallen officers.

The invocation for the ceremony was given by Rev. Warren Hill, Sheriff’s Office Chaplain Bladen County Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff James A. McVicker, who initiated the annual memorial ceremony, expressed gratitude to the fallen officers’ community and families. He underscored the importance of remembering those who have sacrificed their lives, stating, “Today, we gather not just to mourn but also to reflect on the bravery and commitment of those who have gone before us.” He highlighted the significant role of the families, acknowledging that their sacrifices were also recognized and never forgotten.

Charlotte Smith of Bladen Online welcomed the attendees to the event as the emcee. In her address, she reminded the audience of the reason for the ceremony, saying, “As we pay homage to our local fallen heroes, let us also express our eternal gratitude for their selfless sacrifices. They stood as guardians of peace and justice, embodying the highest ideals of service and bravery. May their memory inspire us to strive for a safer and more just society.”

At the start of the ceremony, the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office took a solemn moment to honor the memory of two devoted team members who passed away this year. Although Captain Daniel M. Clark and Lieutenant Robert “Bob” D.C. Meeker Jr. did not die in the line of duty, their contributions were deeply valued, and the loss of the two men was profoundly felt. The ceremony began with a moment of silence for both men, recognizing their service alongside all fallen heroes. Lt. Meeker’s family, including his wife, were present, adding a personal depth to the tribute.

The memorial highlighted the officers whose End of Watch (EOW) dates were commemorated in the programs distributed at the event. Those honored included:

– Chief Roy Franklin Fores, EOW 09-03-1967

– Deputy John Roger Stocks, EOW 10-28-1993

– Deputy James Brian Collins, EOW 09-26-2001

– NCHP Trooper Kevin Conner, EOW 10-17-2018

– Chief Marvin James Bell, EOW 09-03-1972

– Police Officer Brian Ramey, EOW 05-12-2001

– Deputy Dewayne Charles Hester, EOW 06-08-2012

– James Ara Smith, EOW 01-06-2019

Guest speaker, the Honorable C. Ashley Gore, Resident Superior Court Judge, delivered a moving speech about the vital role law enforcement officers play in maintaining peace in our communities. She shared a personal anecdote about how a School Resource Officer inspired her in the sixth grade, reinforcing the deep impact that officers have beyond their immediate duties.

The ceremony included several traditional elements such as the Pledge of Allegiance led by Morgan Johnson, Chief Deputy with the Sheriff’s Office, and the placing of the Memorial Wreath by Sheriff McVicker, Police Chief Parrish, Police Chief Rouse, Police Chief Smith, and North Carolina High Patrol First Sergeant Pait. The Recognition of Local Fallen Heroes was acknowledged, accompanied by a Gun Volley and Taps performed in partnership with the Paul R. Brown Leadership Academy and the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office.

The event concluded with “Amazing Grace,” played by bagpiper Peter McArthur, and a closing prayer by Jason Williams, Senior Pastor of Foundation Church. Attendees were then invited inside for light refreshments, provided as a gesture of communal solidarity and support.

The Bladen County Sheriff’s Office extends its deepest gratitude to all who attended and supported the memorial, ensuring that the legacy of these heroes continues to be honored and remembered within the community.

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