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Fallen law enforcement officers remembered at service

Former Virginia State trooper Nelson Longerbeam, left, prays with family members of law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty during the 10th annual Law Enforcement Memorial Service held Tuesday morning at the Rappahannock Regional Criminal Justice Academy in Middletown. Also shown are Shirley and Richard Williams, parents of trooper Danny Williams, who passed away in 1999, and William and Francis Manion, parents of former state trooper Kevin Manion. Longerbeam was present to recognize his former coworker, trooper Harry Lee Henderson, who died in 1987 after he was struck by a truck on Interstate 66 in Warren County. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

William Manion, father of former state trooper Kevin Manion, places a carnation in the memorial wreath in memory of his son. Trooper Manion died Feb. 18, 2006, hours after suffering a gunshot wound to the chest. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

Warren County Sheriff's deputies Wayne Underwood, left, and Gerald Cubbage, right, stand at attention during the ceremony. The officers are part of the department's color guard unit. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

Mike Jeffries of Winchester, a member of Winchester City Pipes and Drums, plays Amazing Grace on his bag pipes as recruits with the Rappahanock Regional Criminal Justice Academy in Middletown stand during the service. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

Recruits from the Rappahannock Regional Criminal Justice Training Academy in Middletown salute during the service. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

A Front Royal police patrolman displays a black shield on his badge during the Law Enforcement Memorial Service. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

By Joe Beck

Tuesday was a day for bagpipers to play "Amazing Grace" and poetry readings from the podium as family and friends of law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty gathered to honor their memory at Rappahannock Regional Criminal Justice Academy in Middletown.

Todd Smedley, the brother of slain Front Royal Sgt. Dennis M. Smedley, was among those who paid tribute with the laying of a wreath before the audience. The wreath laying is a tradition at the 10-year-old memorial service, but it had special meaning for Todd Smedley, who is a sergeant with the Loudon County Sheriff's Office.

Smedley said his mother has represented the family at past ceremonies ceremonies, but she died last year, and he assumed her wreath-laying role for the first time. Dennis M. Smedley was shot to death on 6th Street outside his home, and his death remains unsolved almost 30 years later. Two defendants were acquitted in two trials.

"Thirty years is a long time," Todd Smedley said quietly after the ceremony. "I hope we get to the bottom of it."

Other lives remembered at the event were: Lt. William Patrick Farrell, Front Royal; Trooper H. Lee Henderson, Virginia State Police; Trooper Kevin Carter Manion, Virginia State Police; Sheriff James W. Newcome, Frederick County Sheriff's Office; Sheriff Luther Pannett, Frederick County Sheriff's Office; Sgt. Ricky L. Timbrook, Winchester Police Department; Trooper Daniel Lee Williams, Virginia State Police.

David Nye, chairman of the academy's board of directors, reminded the audience that 120 to 190 law enforcement officers die each year throughout the United States serving on what he described as "the thin blue line."

"Former President Bill Clinton said that line is nothing less than our buffer between us and chaos," Nye said.

Nye praised the law enforcement officials who chased down two terrorism suspects amid a hail of gunfire after the bombing of the Boston Marathon. One officer died and another was seriously wounded during the manhunt.

"The thin blue line closed ranks, and the people of Boston can once again walk their neighborhoods without fear," Nye said.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com


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