Those who have died in the line of duty honored

STEUBENVILLE – The peaceful Ohio River and beautiful, blue skies were part of a poignant ceremony Friday at the Historic Fort Steuben honoring peace officers who lost their lives in the line of duty.

The ceremony surrounding the flagpole in the picturesque fort was in honor of all who have fallen, particularly the nine local officers who died serving between 1908 and 1978.

The flag at the fort will fly at half staff in memoriam from Sunday through May 17, National Police Week, which also includes Thursday, which is Peace Officers Memorial Day, according to Bob Villamagna, former Steubenville police officer and current 6th Ward councilman.

“The Steubenville High School jazz choir is coming to sing the national anthem, while local Army recruiters are going to assist with the flag-raising,” said Villamagna. “(The service) is to honor all the fallen brothers killed in the line of duty.”

Officers present included those from the Steubenville, Wintersville and Toronto police departments, while Steubenville Patrolman Shawn Scott, police chaplain, acted as master of ceremonies for the service.

“The flag will be at half staff in remembrance of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice,” said Scott. “Today we gather to give our greatest honor, to those who killed in the line of duty.”

Scott said those who volunteered their lives protecting the public were “confident, proud and in the public trust. May no officer fall alone to lie cold in the grave.”

Scott said fellow officers shouldn’t feel vengeful, as those killed were “proud to wear the shield.”

Villamagna then read a proclamation from the city pronouncing Thursday as Peace Officers Memorial Day and Sunday through May 17 as National Police Week. The document also praised efforts of local law enforcement and recognized those who died while on duty.

Steubenville Patrolman James Marquis, president of the local Fraternal Order of Police, read statistics on officer killed in the line of duty during 2013.

“We had 105 officers (killed in the line of duty) last year,” said Marquis, adding they died from gunfire, heart attacks and fire.

Marquis said Texas lost the most officers in 2013, with 13 killed, while one officer in Ohio died last year from injuries sustained in 1991. He added the deadliest month for officers in 2013 was December.

Scott then read the names of those local officers killed, while members stood in reverent silence while the flag was raised to half staff and the jazz choir sang the “Star-Spangled Banner.”

Steubenville Mayor Domenick Mucci said the day was a special one for police officers throughout the country. “It is truly deserved; we recognize our (officers) who have kept our country safe,” said Mucci. “Every time an officer is called, they never know what the outcome will be. We pray for their safety.”