WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP | The nation's first secretary of Homeland Security shared a message about courage and preparedness Friday as Porter County Sheriff's Department officers remembered those from the department who died in the line of service.
“Too often in our society we focus on individual glory and achievement,” said Tom Ridge, noting celebrities, athletes, materialism and reality television play a role in this attention, “but members of this police force, their names aren’t known outside of this department but their anonymous courageous deeds allow us to press on. Their contributions truly matter.”
The Porter County Sheriff’s Department honored their fallen officers as part of National Police Week during their annual Inspection and Memorial Service on Friday at the Sheriff’s Department,.
The event began with an inspection of officers’ cars, guns, uniforms, and equipment followed by a ceremony that featured Ridge as the keynote speaker.
Ridge was a member of the House of Representatives, governor of Pennsylvania and the first secretary of Homeland Security.
He spoke of national safety and how police officers and emergency responders work diligently every day, without recognition, to ensure the safety of others.
He said that since Sept. 11, 2001, the tough job police do every day has gotten even harder and he called on everyone to participate in the protection of the community.
“We are all called to serve as long as we are privileged to call ourselves free. There will be no farewell to service, not on our watch, not ever,” said Ridge, who also asked the crowd to continue to honor the memory of the fallen officers by protecting what was most important to them — family, community, and country.
Sheriff David Lain spoke of preparedness in light of Ridge’s role with national preparedness.
“Officers prepare for their final day the first day they put on their uniform. It is an attitude, bred over many years, so when the time comes the awareness is already there. These fallen officers literally sacrificed everything in this cause. They didn’t expect it, but they did accept it,” Lain said.
He honored Officer Edward Blakely who died in 1961, Officer Timothy Hecht who died in 1999, and Robert Hardesty who died in 2005, as well as Officer Phillip Pratt who died May 16, 2012 and whose family was in attendance.
Members of the John Simatovich Elementary School Choir performed and instrumentalists from Chesterton High School played taps while Randy Wilkening performed the bag pipes in traditional Scottish costume.
Chandler Hawk, a fourth-grader from Brummitt Elementary School, read his winning essay, “Why A Police Officer Makes Me Feel Safe.” Ridge commended him for his poise.