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(PHOTOS) ‘It was never Mayberry,’ judge says in peace officers memorial speech

Law enforcement and first responder leaders, personnel and supporters gathered today at Campbell County Sheriff's Office in memory of fallen Wyoming officers and emergency personnel.

Judge Paul Phillips (Mary Stroka/County 17)

GILLETTE, Wyo. — Law enforcement and first responder leaders, personnel and supporters gathered today at the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office in memory of fallen Wyoming officers and emergency personnel.

Gillette Police Department Chief Chuck Deaton welcomes attendees (Mary Stroka/County 17)

“Some communities across this country choose to honor those who have done little to earn accolades, holding dear those who celebrate lawlessness and the otherwise indefensible,” Sixth Circuit Court Hon. Paul Phillips said in the keynote speech. “Elsewhere, it is deemed controversial to support, let alone honor peace officers, even the following, but not here. Here, we both share and have the courage to celebrate our values.”

The honor guard (Mary Stroka/County 17)

Those values include appreciation for first responders who sacrificed themselves on the behalf of Wyomingites, he said. Publicly honoring their sacrifice is a reminder that their cause is and has been just, that first responders are and have been healers, and the world is and has been dangerous.

“It was never Mayberry,” he said.

Campbell County Sheriff Scott Matheny (Mary Stroka/County 17)

He said that the public has increased expectations of emergency personnel and expanded their role to being preachers, teachers, social workers, negotiators, parents, medics, mediators, reporters, scriviners and counselors, with eidetic memories, florid prose, multilingual fluency, a high degree of physical fitness and expert marksmanship.

“We demand you make the right decision every time, irrespective of the uncertainty of the situation that you face or the stress you are enduring, knowing full well that we are incapable of the same. And while we count on social decay in its many forms under the guise of tolerance and reform, when harms predictably result, we turn to you, the holders of badges and the wearers of uniforms to resolve our conflicts, to right our wrongs and to save us from ourselves,” he said. “And you do.”

The honor guard performs a 21-gun salute to honor the fallen. (Mary Stroka/County 17)

First responders’ ability to respond to “the known location of ugliness” allows the public to sleep soundly, he said.

“No matter the color of your uniform, no matter the shape of your badge, there will be another call, another injustice to fix another evil, to confront another sadness, another terrible sight,” he said.

Phillips said men and women have the undying gratitude of the people of Northeast Wyoming.

Memorial attendees listen to speeches (Mary Stroka/County 17)

“We recognize that yours is a special call that only a few can hear and that only the finest among us can or will answer,” he said. “And understand you are blessed to have answered that call in a very special place, a place where we maintain values enabling us to celebrate those who sacrifice on our behalf. A place that still supports its peace officers, those fallen and those still standing.”

Chaplain Gordon Harper gave the invocation and closing prayer, and Shayne Howe sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “God Bless America.”

Shayne Howe sings “God Bless America” at the memorial ceremony May 17. (Mary Stroka/County 17)

Prime Rib donated food for the luncheon that followed the ceremony.

There will be a ceremony at 3 p.m. May 18 at the Gillette Police Department, 201 E. 5th St., Gillette, in memory of Gillette police officer Jon Hardy, who was killed in the line of duty on Dec. 20, 1983.