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 email@example.com