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Unity Tour helps raise funds for fallen officers during National Police Week

POSTED: May 17, 2013 12:11 a.m.
/For The Times

Griggs Wall, left, with the Gainesville Police Department, cycles toward the Capitol during a Police Unity Tour held over last weekend in Washington, D.C. The ride honors officers who have died in the line of duty.

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In conjunction with National Police Week and the honoring of fallen officers, the Gainesville Police Department is lit up blue at night.

“This week is a time for all law enforcement to reflect on those that have paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to their communities and it is also a time for the public we serve to do the same,” Gainesville Police Chief Brian Kelly said. “Our officers go into work each and every day leaving their families behind, not knowing what the day may bring nor whether they will make it home to their loved ones, and that is something we as a community should never forget and should not only remember this week but every week of the year.”

Three officers honored fallen comrades in a big way.

Master Police Officers Griggs Wall, Mike Huckaby and Cpl. Kevin Holbrook set out early in the morning May 7 for the Police Unity Tour.

“Our officers show the same compassion daily in their service to the Gainesville community and it fills me with pride to have them do the same as they traveled north bicycling in the Police Unity Tour in support of their fallen comrades,” Kelly said. “Public safety is definitely a calling and not just anyone can do the job.”

Just having the fitness for the trip was a hurdle alone — officers biked between 250 and 300 miles from Portsmouth, Va., into Washington, D.C.

Officers funded themselves, and the trip itself is also a fundraiser; money raised goes to the under-construction fallen officer museum in Washington and National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial at Judiciary Square, where the trip culminated Monday with a candlelight vigil.

Holbrook, one of the participants who raised the $2,000 for the trip, and spokesman for the Gainesville department, explained the process.

“We met up with officers from the Georgia State Patrol and Georgia Department of Natural Resources. This year we had officers from Doraville Police Department, and Athens-Clarke County Police Department — that was our local group,” he said. “Then we meet another group of around 1,800 riders from all over the country. There are different chapters throughout the country, ours is the Southeastern chapter. We met with 1,800 officers, then all rode in to D.C. together to the memorial.”

Holbrook described the vigil as heart-wrenching and emotional.

“People sometimes tend to forget that officers are people. We do have emotions, we do have hearts. Going through the memorial service, you’re hard-pressed to find a dry eye throughout that service,” Holbrook said.

Holbrook said the experience serves both the memorial fund, former colleagues of the fallen, but most importantly, surviving family members.

“It gives them that closure, and support they need to make it through every day. We may go through the hurt, the pain, of this 250-, nearly 300-mile ... ride, but the pain is nothing compared to the pain they live with everyday,” Holbrook said.

Holbrook noted that while in the history of the department only two officers have been lost, it’s an experience that feels close to home for all law enforcement agencies.

“With it being National Police Week, participating in the tour allows us to one, raise awareness of those who have died, and two, show our respect for those officers,” he said.


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