Peace Officers’ Memorial Day ceremony held in Fort Walton Beach



FORT WALTON BEACH — Just as the sun began to rise, a handful of law officers dressed in various uniforms began to gather in front of the Fort Walton Beach police station.

Two police cars with their lights flashing blocked the entrance to the station. As the minutes ticked by, the area began to fill with a sea of uniformed officers standing shoulder to shoulder.

For 11 years these representatives from the Fort Walton Beach Police Department, Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office, Crestview Police Department and security forces from Eglin Air Force Base and Hurlburt Field have converged on that spot to honor their fallen on Peace Officers’ Memorial Day. Each year the ceremony, which is rich in symbolism and tradition, remembers local officers who have died in the line of duty.

Fort Walton Beach Police Chief Ed Ryan reminded the crowd that in 2016 there were 145 officers killed in the line duty in the United States, with six of those deaths occuring in Florida.

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“This ceremony stands as a reminder that are those few heroic souls who take on the responsibility to ensure the safety of our society,” Ryan said. “Every day, and without asking for thanks, our law enforcement officers face danger to protect us and our community. I’m certain that everyone here joins me in praying that we will add no more names to this memorial.”

Later in the ceremony, Fort Walton Beach Police Capt. William Royal read aloud the “Roll of Honor” of names of area law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty. After each name, an officer rang a bell.

Like many funerals honoring fallen officers, the ceremony came to a close with a squad of seven officers firing three volleys in honor them. The crowd stood at attention as two buglers played the mournful notes of taps.

“My wife and I have been attending this ceremony ever since it started,” Mayor Dick Rynearson said as the crowd of officers embraced each other and greeted old friends. “This was my first time as mayor, and it was particularly meaningful.”