BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — Friday afternoon, the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office honored 13 fallen officers from the department’s history ranging from 1907 to the present.
Whether they’d lost family members in recent years, or they were remembering a relative who died decades ago, family members said mourning a loved one never becomes easy.
Tammy Fillers and Kathi Boyd’s brother Sgt. Steve Hinkle was considering retirement when a regular day on the job in 2019 went wrong.
“He went there to try to help somebody that was a call for a welfare check,” said Boyd. “If the guy had just talked to him, instead of shooting, I mean, he, he would have helped him.”
Boyd and Fillers said the memorial is always special, if difficult.
“You think it’ll get easier, and you’re not going to cry, but you always do,” said Boyd.
For families whose loved one’s death is now decades in the past, the grief and loss are still fresh.
“He was my twin brother. He’s been gone 22 years and I still miss him. We were real close,” former sheriff’s office employee Brett Shelton told News Channel 11.
He was on duty, driving behind his brother Deputy Barry Shelton, in 2001 when Barry lost control of his vehicle and died in a crash.
For some, the memorial itself has become a tradition. Phyllis Jackson is a relative of the first officer to die in the line of fire for Sullivan County. Her great-grandfather, Special Deputy Lee Eldridge Eldreth, died in 1907.
“I think we’ve come ever since the first one was done,” Jackson told News Channel 11. “It’s always a wonderful thing when we get the call to say they’re gonna do it again, because it’s kind of important I think, to remember those folks.”
National Police Week begins Sunday, May 13.
Law enforcement officers and families from across the country will gather in Washington, D.C. for a candlelight vigil at the National Law Enforcement Memorial.