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Whenever law enforcement officers of different agencies get together, there will be uniforms of every color and style, along with coats and ties, along with open and knit shirts.
That dress code is determined by what their job requires, be it an investigator, state trooper, deputy, police officer, wildlife officer or other work-related task.
Despite those subtle differences, there is one thing that never changes: law officers never forget their fallen brothers in arms.
It was evident on Wednesday morning, May 15, as Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Jeff Hilton stared at the eight names etched in granite on the Lancaster County Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. Almost on cue, as Hilton lightly brushed his fingertips across the names, a train whistle wailed in the distance.
He personally knew some of the officers to whom those names belonged, and some he didn’t. But just like the other officers, Hilton knew one thing. Those eight gave their lives in the line of duty.
“It’s good to remember, but it’s nice to have a place like this to remember them,” said the Rev. John Rogers, chaplain for the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office.
Rogers spoke to about three dozen officers during the Peace Officers Memorial Day Service as part of the local National Police Week commemoration. National Police Week was created in 1962 when President John F. Kennedy proclaimed May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day.
When it comes to remembering the fallen, Rogers compared it to the tribes of Israel commemorating Passover and churches remembering Jesus Christ through the Last Supper.
“There’s just some things we need to remember,” he said. “We need to remember those in our ranks who made the ultimate sacrifice.”
Rogers said he has never viewed a career in law enforcement as a vocation; he considers it a calling that requires an unusual skill set.
“They paved the way and set an example for us to follow,” he said. “We must have the utmost respect for those whose names are remembered here.”
And like Hilton, Rogers remembers some of those names, too, including deputy Roy Hardin.
Hardin, 41, died of a heart attack Feb. 8, 2001, while on duty.
A former officer for the Kershaw Police Department, Hardin was hired by the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office in 1991. He taught DARE to elementary and middle school students and was one of the sheriff’s office’s original resident deputies, heavily working the Indian Land area where he lived.
At the time of his death, Hardin was answering an alarm call in Indian Land. A state trooper discovered Hardin’s patrol vehicle on Possum Hollow Road and notified the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Department. Deputies had been searching for Hardin for some time that night after the sheriff’s office lost radio contact with him. They found him lying in a driveway on Possum Hollow Road.
“I was on duty that night,” Rogers said. “To this day, I remember every sight, every sound and every smell. When you put a face with a name, it has a deeper meaning.”
Rogers urged his fellow officers not to take the significance of the day lightly and challenged them to rededicate themselves to their calling.
“If they were willing to die in service, we ought to be willing to live in service and do the best we can,” he said. “Greater love has no man than to lay down his life for his friends.”
Contact copy editor Gregory A. Summers at (803) 283-1156