Editor’s Note: Iredell County Sheriff Darren Campbell delivered the following remarks during the Peace Officers Memorial Day Ceremony on Tuesday, May 7.


Good morning. What an absolute honor it is to be here today. I am humbled to stand before each of you, on this solemn occasion along with representatives from the Department of Justice, Attorney General Josh Stein, Chief Chip Hawley, Superior Court Judge Joesph Crosswhite, Pastor Brian Burgess and members of Beulah Baptist Church, fellow law enforcement officers, and most importantly family and loved ones of those officers who made the ultimate sacrifice, whom we honor here today.

In the year 2023, 137 law enforcement officers lost their lives in the line of duty. This is an astonishing statistic for the law enforcement community. If we were to honor each of these fallen heroes with simply a one-minute moment of silence, we would sit in this room, in silence, for two hours and 17 minutes.

However, for the families these officers leave behind, it is a pivotal moment in their family’s timeline. These families will forever measure time in before, and after. Time will now become before I lost my husband, before I lost my wife, before I lost my father, my mother, my son, my daughter, my sister, or my brother. Their heartbreaking loss, and the grief that follows, is utterly incomprehensible.

This week, and in weeks past, we watch as communities come together to mourn fallen officers. We are moved at the sight of spontaneous memorials, flag-lined streets, and the sounds of bag pipes. However, we know that in the weeks, months, and years that follow, you, the families of the fallen, are faced with the most difficult challenge of finding a way to live without your loved one.

As officers, our jobs are not always easy. We encounter things that most people cannot comprehend. We rush towards danger, never running away, saddled with an inherent desire to protect people we most likely have never met before.

Rarely does any officer entertain that a routine call for service, a vehicle stop, or simply wearing a badge might require them to make the ultimate sacrifice. However, as complex and hazardous as an officer’s job might be, very few officers have had to watch their loved one put on a bulletproof vest, holster their gun, walk out the door, and face the reality that this could possibly be the shift they will not return from. We will never know the nightmare of answering the phone, or hearing a knock at the door to discover that our worst fear has become our reality. Truly, as tough as an officer’s job may be, the task of loving an officer is more challenging.

To each family here today, as you gather to honor a lost hero, we wish you were not here. We wish that every law enforcement family’s nightmare was not your reality, and that you did not have to refer to your family’s timeline as before and after. I can promise you that there is not a single person here who would not erase your grief, repair the hole in your heart, and remove the empty chair at your table if that were humanly possible.

Unfortunately, we cannot erase your grief, repair the hole in your heart, nor remove the empty chair at your table. We can promise to continue to honor and remember the men and women who have lost their lives while serving our communities. We can promise always to be there when you need us because you are and always will be part of the law enforcement family. The ultimate sacrifice of your hero will never be forgotten.

Your family began making sacrifices the minute your officer embarked on this career. We recognize and honor the sacrifice of sharing your husband, wife, mother or father, with the citizens they were sworn to protect and serve. We acknowledge the missed holidays, birthdays, little league games, and dance recitals, never quite knowing when their shift would be over. We thank you for keeping your family responsibilities in motion when duty called. We thank you for the support you gave them, after a particularly tough shift, which sometimes required you to listen and sometimes required you to remain silent. We also thank you for letting your officer decompress and come to accept and absorb the calls from that day when, in reality, you also needed to talk about your day. We are incredibly grateful to your family for the difficult task of being a law enforcement family.

If you will allow me, for just a moment, to speak to my fellow officers. I understand the brother and sisterhood that this profession shares. I know well the bond we share across this county, state, and country, bound by that thin blue line we each chose to walk. This bond is evident as I look across this sanctuary today and as I attended the most recent funeral services for fallen officers. I am continually amazed at the sea of uniforms from across the United States that come to honor the sacrifice made by a fellow officer they have most likely never met.

As I look across the various agencies represented here, I am struck by the fact that, while we each may wear a different uniform and different hats, we are unified by the badge we choose to place on our chest every day.

As officers, we are not known as a group that shares our feelings openly nor with one another. We are understood to keep a stiff upper lip and continue with the task. I assure you that when one agency is mourning the loss of an officer, we all mourn your loss with you.

I have struggled this week, as I have spent much time grasping for the perfect words to say to you today. I searched for words to convey what every officer in this room and across the state would say to bring you just an ounce of comfort. I realize that my words are inadequate. So, I would like to leave you with this verse from Psalms 34:18:

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
And saves those who are crushed in

We cannot fathom the depth of your brokenness. However, we can lean on the promise that God is near to each of you. On days when your spirit is crushed, we pray that you feel the comfort only He can bring.

Thank you to each family here today. We are forever grateful for the service and sacrifice made by your hero. We promise never to let their memory fade or their sacrifice ever be forgotten.

2 thoughts on “Viewpoint: Our fallen heroes will never be forgotten

Comments are closed.