Several area law enforcement officers gathered Thursday at the Newton County Sheriff's Office to remember those who have died in the line of duty.
The Newton County Chaplain's annual Service of Remembrance, held in conjunction with National Police Week, served as a memorial for fallen officers in the four-state area.
"It's an opportunity for us to remember and give thanks to those officers in our four-state area who have given their lives over the last year," said Newton County Chaplain Dr. Bill Doubek. "We just think it's very important that we remember their sacrifice and remember their families in prayer and just honor them as best as we can."
The national Peace Officers Memorial Day was May 15, while Police Week began Sunday, May 12 and ends Saturday, May 18.
The day of remembrance and the week associated with it were established in October 1962 in a joint resolution of the 87th United States Congress.
Newton County Sheriff Ken Copeland said there had been 127 officers killed in 2012, with the leading cause of death related to traffic accidents, while nearly 50 of those officers were fatally shot.
Doubek noted that the total number of officer deaths in 2013 has reached 41.
"I don't want them to be just a statistic," Copeland said of the fallen heroes. "Each officer gave their life to protect the public and each officer had family and friends who ultimately also paid the sacrifice."
Despite the risks that come with the job, Copeland said most officers wouldn't think of doing anything else.
"It's what we do," Copeland said. "I've been blessed to be sheriff. I think different officers get into it for different reasons. The old stand-by is to help people, but once you honestly do get to help somebody, or your personal actions helped somebody, it's touching, it's a reward that we get out of it."
Rev. Officer Keith Brumfield provided the memorial address, and spoke to officers in attendance about the struggles associated with the job, and the importance of not allowing even the most challenging of calls to harden them.
"You have seen many dead bodies, you have been frustrated by the revolving jail door and it is likely that you yourself have been assaulted at least once in your career," Brumfield said. "Through it all, you become street wise and probably street-hardened by developing a thick skin. Thick skin can be necessary but if not kept in check it can be detrimental to us personally, professionally and most of all, spiritually."
Brumfield asked the officers in attendance to not let the thick skin that is necessary in their careers to get in the way of caring for others, even in the most difficult situations.
"Loving people is important, even if they screw up," Brumfield said. "We have been given in the word of God one of the greatest positions that I believe we can have, that is to call ourselves law enforcement, peace officers, peace keepers."
Page 2 of 2 - Brumfield left the officers with a Bible passage from the book of John 15:12-13 (NLT). He said when he was first approached about speaking at Thursday's memorial service, the passage immediately came to mind.
"I command you to love each other in the same way that I love you," the passage reads. "And here is how to measure it -- the greatest love is shown when people lay down their lives for their friends."