As fireworks rattled off in the background, a somber group of more than 100 family members and officers gathered Friday at the State House to honor South Carolina’s fallen officers.
Forest Acres police officer Greg Alia, 32, and Columbia police officer Stacy L. Case, 37, were among 17 fallen officers added to the S.C. Law Enforcement Memorial memorial that dates back to 1891.
Greenville police officer Allen Lee Jacobs, who was shot and killed in March while chasing a gang member, was named during a roll call, but will be added to the memorial by the 2017 service.
The night’s featured speaker was Congressman Trey Gowdy, who has represented U.S. House District 4 since 2010, and easily defeated his challengers on Tuesday in his re-election bid.
In light of the election, Gowdy highlighted how unique the United States is because of the respect and adherence its citizens have to the rule of law. Gowdy said the law is what makes the rich and the poor drive the same speed limit and pay their taxes on the same date.
“But the law would be meaningless, it would just simply be a book full of suggestions and ideas, if you did not have people willing to enforce the law,” Gowdy said. “So however much you treasure being a country, in a nation of laws, that’s how much you should equally treasure having a country with women and men willing to be law enforcement officers.”
Each fallen officer was then named during a roll call, which included a bell toll and a salute to each name. More than 400 fallen officers’ names are etched on the memorial.
Jerry Wright, of the South Carolina Fraternal Order of Police, said the event is held annually for the families and survivors of fallen officers.
“They can see that we still remember their loved ones,” Wright said.
Among those present was Alia’s widow, Kassy, who said the event was important because her son, who is a little over a year old, will soon start asking about his father.
As she drove to the memorial, she said she thought about how she will always be a widow. But annual events in which families who suffer from the same loss are vital in showing that those officers will never be forgotten.
“That’s important, because these heroes died protecting us,” Kassy Alia said. “And it’s important that we remember them each year and say their names.”