By Joe Beck
STRASBURG -- Area law enforcement officials gathered Tuesday at a candlelight vigil to pay tribute to those who lost their lives in the line of duty, a ceremony punctuated with a dramatic soundtrack of live bagpipes on the ground and claps of thunder rolling across the sky.
Several of those present said the threatening weather held down attendance for the event, which was moved inside to the Restoration Fellowship Church at 2128 John Marshall Highway.
The vigil, organized by deputy 1st class Curtis Toy of the Loudon County Sheriff's Office and trooper Derick Mauck of the Virginia State Police, was an effort to give local law enforcement officials a taste of a larger scale ceremony held around the same time of the year at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Toy, who lives in Shenandoah County, said officers working in the small town police jurisdictions of the Northern Shenandoah Valley tend to be hard pressed for time and money needed to attend the Washington, D.C. event.
"My purpose was to set this up to allow the entire Shenandoah Valley to attend a candlelight vigil for the fallen," Toy said, adding that he had been planning the vigil since August.
Donations given at the vigil are going to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, which bears the names of more than 20,000 officers who have died since the first fatality recorded in 1791.
New names are carved into the marble surface every spring in conjunction with National Police Week events that raise money to add new names and maintain the memorial. It costs $250 to add each name to the memorial.
The local ceremony included the reading of 286 names added to the memorial in 2013. Speakers took turns reading the names and dates of death - many from well over a century ago.
Page County Sheriff John Thomas lighted the ceremonial candle honoring those who died.
Rick Steele, a retired member of the Warren County Sheriff's Office and a chaplain with the Front Royal-Warren County Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 33 delivered the invocation.
"Now we find it difficult to understand why these officers died in the line of duty," Steele said, citing Romans 8:28: "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to his purpose."
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org