The mournful wail of bagpipes signaled the start of the 23rd annual Peace Officers Memorial Day service in front of Rome’s Joint Law Enforcement Center on Friday.
“We remember and celebrate those who honored the highest call and paid the ultimate sacrifice,” said Master of Ceremonies Robert Smyth.
Tribute was paid to 20 officers representing nine different agencies during the ceremony.
Families of at least a dozen of the fallen officers laid white roses on the stark, black stone monuments to their loved ones while officers from the different agencies laid roses on the markers for those whose families were unable to attend.
Oscar Carver was an employee at the Floyd County Prison in November of 1929. His daughter Betty Blackwell, who was 7 years old at the time, remembers vividly what happened.
“A prisoner had two guards held up down there and daddy was a guard and walked up to him and said, ‘Don’t do that, put that gun down,’” Blackwell recalled. “He said, ‘Carver I’m going to kill you’ and shot him.”
Blackwell, with the assistance of her sons Tom and Warren Blackwell, placed the rose on Carver’s monument.
Emily Cordle Milstead, wife of Roy Eldon Milstead, a Sheriff’s deputy who was killed June 18, 1965, recalled being at work in the nursery of Floyd Medical Center when she learned that her husband had just been brought in.
“It was terrible to go down to the emergency room and see my husband there,” Milstead said.
Her niece Cindy Cordle Proctor actually placed the rose on Milstead’s monument.
Randy Johnson of Rome placed the rose on his great-grandfather Joe Johnson’s monument.
“This means a whole lot to me. I didn’t get the whole history of it until much later in life,” Johnson said. “I’ve been coming every year for the last eight or nine years.”
His great-grandfather died in the line of duty in October of 1921.
Mark Lowe, a cousin of U.S. Secret Service Special Agent Scott E. Deaton, who was killed in June of 1999, said he felt it was important for someone in the family to be at the ceremony to pay tribute to his service.
“I think it’s important to the family to have someone here who still remembers him,” Lowe said.
Mayor Bill Collins read a joint Rome-Floyd County proclamation calling all of the honorees “guardians of life and property.”