Police in St. Clair County gathered Tuesday morning to honor fellow officers who lost their lives in the line of duty.
The event was called “Heroes Behind the Badge.” It was the 34th annual law enforcement service held at the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department to remember fallen officers. Former Sheriff Mearl Justus started began the event while in office.
Police officers and military personnel read the names of the 45 law enforcement members whose names appeared on the program beneath the words, “They loved, lived and died for you and me.”
Tammy Jennings, wife of Illinois State Police Trooper Elbert Jennings, stirred the large crowd with her rendition of Amazing Grace and the National Anthem.
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Dale Bode, a member of the Fairview Heights Police Honor Guard, played Taps with his bugle.
Family members and friends of the fallen officers listened attentively for their loved ones’ names to be read. Some dropped their heads when they heard the name they were waiting for. Others stared straight ahead.
The audience was filled with police officers from throughout St. Clair County. Calvin Dye Sr., a former Illinois trooper and a current investigator in the St. Clair County State’s Attorney’s office, began the ceremony by saying, “To all of the law enforcement officers present, this is your day to be honored for the great job you do day in and day out.”
Keynote speaker, attorney C.J. Baricevic told the audience the community must make a commitment to “thank those of you in uniform. You support those of us who do not serve.”
He added, “We’re here for two very important reasons: to remember and appreciate those who lost their lives in the line of duty...The second reason we’re here is to thank those who serve us.”
Sheriff Richard Watson thanked the local dignitaries who took time out to attend the memorial service and asked everyone to keep the families of the fallen in their prayers. To the families, he said, “Ask God to relieve your grief.”
Kalidah Jonas is grateful to the Sheriff’s Department for holding the service every year. Her father, Gregory Jonas, a former Centreville police officer, was shot and killed in the line of duty in 2009. She said her father was a “great man.”
“He loved law enforcement. And, it’s great that the Sheriff’s Department takes time out every year to remember my dad and others who lost their lives while on the job. It’s a great way to let the families know that they really do care and appreciate the sacrifice they made to keep our communities safe,” she said.
Jonas said the call her family received is one she hopes another family will not have to get. “It changes a family forever,” Jonas said.
The last time she saw her father, he was sitting on the porch at his home. Now, when Jonas drives by there, she said she sees “a spirit on his porch waving at me.”
Cameron Reid’s father, Lamont Reid, is a former member of the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department staff. He suffered a heart attack in 2010 while he was working. Lamont Reid turned 55 on Feb. 27, 2010, and died three weeks later.
Cameron Reid, 34, learned something was wrong with his father when he got a call from a deputy who told him he needed to get to the hospital.
“It still hurts. I never thought I would be in this situation,” Cameron Reid said. He and his father “pretty much worked the same shift” at the Sheriff’s department, he said.
Cameron Reid said he cherishes the moment in Washington D.C. when he saw his father’s name added to the wall of remembrance in 2014 and the moment on May 5, when his father’s name was added to the wall outside of the Sheriff’s Department.
“He will never be forgotten,” said Cameron Reid, who has worked at the Sheriff’s Department for 12 years.
Former St. Clair County Circuit Judge Annette Eckert knew Lamont Reid. She said she worked with him on the Domestic Violence Coordinating Council.
“He was a real partner with the courts. We worked on domestic violence cases. I saw him often. He passed away too young. He was a special man, a special officer,” Eckert said.
Carolyn P. Smith: 618-239-2503