A Police Medal of Honor, a folded United States flag, a few trinkets, pictures, and 35-year-old graveside flowers; this is what I have. I have some stories and some memories but majority of both belong to others. I did not get the opportunity to build memories with my father. He did not walk his daughters down the aisle or meet his grandchildren. My father, Deputy Jerry Bryant, was killed in the line of duty in 1984, a month before my fourth birthday.
For 35 years I have attended Police Memorials in some form or fashion. The 3 Volley Salute makes me jump every time. I have heard “Taps” played almost all of my life, and it still makes me upset. I learned a long time ago to hold back the tears. I also learned how to handle death at a very early age. I do not believe there are many things more public than the death of an officer killed in the line of duty.
I have been to Washington D.C. for memorials. I have been to the American Police Hall of Fame and Museum in Florida where I have knelt at the Memorial Wall and rubbed the name of my father onto a piece of paper with graphite. I have held my own memorials. I have walked down Main Street, always stopping at the Memorial flag flown at Trustmark Bank and have often wondered if anyone even notices it anymore. I have stopped at the Memorial on our Courthouse lawn and placed the flowers back upright after a windy day. I have attended many memorials, but one I have always tried to attend is the one the Marion County Sheriff’s Department and Columbia Police Department hold together, together as a brotherhood, as a family.
This year it will not be like that. The Police Department and Sheriff’s Office will not be hosting the Memorial together; they will alternate years with this year being the Police Department’s year. I do not agree with this; where’s the unity and brotherhood in that?
I do not agree with the changes that have been made this year. Some things have been done a certain way for a reason. I do not agree with a personal request of the song by organizers of the event, and if you don’t know the history of it, I would suggest a little research. I do not agree with the date change; I understand the reasoning behind it, but organizers did not even change it to the National Peace Officer Memorial Day – May 15. If they felt that eager to change the date the very least they could have done was contacted each family. Fortunately and sadly there are only eight; it would have been a simple task to just ask.
Please understand that I don’t mind change if it is done the correct way, but do not try to cram something down my throat without asking me how I feel about it, especially something this important to my family! Maybe this year the organizers should sit in my place at the Memorial, see what the view is from where we are and find out why things are done a certain way to begin with before you try to change it!
When influential people come to a town, make changes (especially to traditions), it is easy for them to leave, leaving locals with only the memories of the way things were. I was taught to be strong, to stand up for what I believe and speak up for what I feel is right! In my eyes organizers have no right changing something they know nothing about. They don’t even know all the families. Last year they never spoke to any of my family; maybe it’s because my dad was a deputy and not an officer, but if that is the case you’re in our county.
What’s the old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” well this is one of those things that should have been left alone and was perfect without their input!
My family has never expected anything extravagant; we never would. We keep the programs each year and the roses until they have dried. Never wishing more would be done. I would sit through a monsoon in a lightning storm before I went to another location to honor our officers and their families!
You see for about the last 15 years I haven’t sat in the hot sun, sweating, emotional and waiting for his name to be called for me; I sit there for each of our officers and their families. Because the biggest darkest worse fear imaginable in any law enforcement officer’s life – I have lived. I have lived a life without a father because of the evil in this world.
I don’t sit there for my mother or my sister, my husband or my child; I sit there to remind each officer and their families that we are here, as your family and we’ve got your 6. We pray for you, we may not know each of you but you are covered in prayers. We appreciate and know the sacrifices you make daily for Columbia and Marion County and want to say thank you to every member of our law enforcement. We appreciate your husbands and wives for supporting your commitment to the citizens. We appreciate your children for being proud of what their parent(s) do. There are no words to describe how grateful we have felt to live here, in a community where we have felt supported. The condolences, appreciation and respect have always been overwhelming until this year.
I have attended the annual police memorial at our courthouse for more years than some of our officers have been in service, but this year I will not be there. This year our seats will be empty. I will not attend something I feel is being used in a way to get media attention.
I will attend next year when the Sheriff’s Department will be hosting because at least then I will know we will not be overlooked or ignored. And before organizers say, “You should have come to us first!” my mother tried and your office did not even recognize my father’s name. This is a daughter’s view. My name is Julie Bryant McDonald, daughter of Jerry Bryant, and my number is (601) 441-4386; maybe you should keep that information for the next Memorial!
Julie Bryant McDonald