Memorial services or as the moderns prefer, Life Celebrations, have been the order of the day for me too much of late.
On Monday July 11th Terre Haute Police Officer Brent Daniel Long was dispatched to assist U.S. Marshals serving an arrest warrant on a man wanted for violating Parole. During this procedure Officer Long was shot and killed. His dog, Shadow was shot as well, but will survive. Brent was 34 years of age and a Terre Haute man. He leaves Danielle his wife and two children, Ashley and Levi.
I was invited to attend the Funeral services put on by a crack team of experts and policemen from around the country. Thousands of officers were in attendance and I admit I have never seen anything like it. My friend and member of the church I pastor, Bob Spence, Sheriff of Vermillion County invited me to ride with him to the pageant. Talk about a view from the inside.
Precision was paramount with Color Guards, Honor Guards, Bagpipes, and I estimate near 75 Canine Officers, Shepherds of all types along with a few rescues paraded by several times during the celebration. The dogs were gorgeous
I lined up with the Sheriffs from around the entire region and was expected to act as though I had a clue as to what to do. It was really pretty simple. I did what the officer in front of me did. I still don't have a clue, but I did not embarrass my host. We stood at attention saluting for at least 37 minutes at the gravesite. I would have died before I gave up, even though the heat index was over 100 degrees. The officers were in full dress uniforms and I was in full suit and neck tie. Talk about hot. The service at the cemetery was like nothing you have ever seen. All the pomp and circumstance due the fallen officer was performed with absolute precision.
A former pastor in the area gave a brief message at the close and told the gathered throng of the day when Brent accepted Christ as savior. He also told of the day Brent was married. A great clear cut testimony of his faith in Jesus Christ was given.
The reality of the life of an officer was brought home by the testimonies of fellow workers, the widow and children, and the thousands who were in the Hulman Center and the thousands upon thousands lining the streets, waving flags, holding signs of encouragement to the Long family, many with tears streaming down their face. Our town came together as never before.
As we drove by the police station, they played the "Final Call" which involves a broadcast calling Brent's car number, 208, three times. Every person in our SUV shed a tear. I blamed allergies. The irony of the Final Call is that Brent's widow is a police dispatcher. Danielle was on duty Monday the 11th and it was she who gave Brent his final dispatch. Life is strange.
As we left the Civic Center, Bob took a phone call from a deputy in Clinton; an 11 year old boy had been shot in the head and was being life lined to Indianapolis. Later word came that the child was not expected to make it through the night. Police Officers seldom get a break.
The men and women in blue or brown or whatever colors, pay a dear price, and on occasion the supreme one. It behooves all who are civilized to hold them in prayer and high respect.
Part of a scripture rings in my ear and reverberates in my heart as I think of Officer Brent Long;
"There is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel."