There are three holes in the newly-unveiled Public Safety Memorial, the outlines of an officer, a firefighter and a paramedic.
Some may see them as empty, but County Manager Jeffrey Hudson asked that Onslow County see those cutouts as filled in his speech Saturday morning. Those silhouettes are filled with courage, faithfulness, love and sacrifice.
“Let us commit ourselves to be worthy of that sacrifice,” he said.
Thirteen names were added in gold on the reflective stand to the left of the silhouettes and their families were honored at the official unveiling ceremony Saturday morning.
Uniformed officers from all Onslow County agencies stood to create a sea of blue, saluting the families as they walked in to the ceremony. All visitors gave way to a somber silence as loved ones of the fallen made their way to designated seats.
One by one, the names of the 13 men were called as their families were escorted up to the memorial to receive a red rose in their memory.
“Certainly, we should remember the names of our fallen. But this memorial should remind us of more than names,” Hudson told the gathered crowd. “We know more about the fallen than their names. By the very fact that they are on this monument we know that they loved their community.”
Every person serving Onslow County as a first responder stands between the community and disaster every time they put that uniform on, Hudson said.
The cousin of Brandon Whimple, whose name adorns the memorial, said she and close to 20 others came out in his memory Saturday morning for the unveiling. Jordan Jones said the ceremony was touching and appropriate.
It’s horrible to need a memorial for fallen first responders, horrible to have anyone die in the line of duty, but if there needs to be one they deserve a memorial like this, Jones agreed.
Because of ties to law enforcement, Jones said she would have attended the unveiling even if she didn’t know someone on the wall.
“This makes it extra important,” she said.
Robin Knapp, who said he knew a few of the men whose names will be forever displayed on the memorial, spent most of his career in law enforcement. Saturday morning he rode his motorcycle to the unveiling along with more than 50 others in memory of the fallen 13.
“It’s a sad day, but it’s also a memorable day,” Knapp said. “(It’s important) to let the family know we will never forget.”