FEELING BLUEby Fred Pollard - Advantage on April 29, 2019
Mention the names Kyle Deatherage or Blake Snyder anywhere in the Riverbend, and it immediately stirs up a number of emotions — sadness, grief, pride, and honor.
“Nationally, police deaths are on the decline statistically,” Alton Police Department Public Information Officer Pfc. Emily Hejna said. “Unfortunately, the deaths due to firearms and traffic-related deaths are holding steady.”
Illinois State Police officer Kyle Deatherage was struck and killed while conducting a traffic stop in 2012. Godfrey native and St. Louis County police officer Blake Snyder was shot and killed in 2016 while responding to a call.
Both officers will be recognized, along with other local fallen law enforcement, during Alton’s seventh annual National Police Day Memorial event on May 15, held for the first time this year at Libert Bank Alton Amphittheater.
Sponsors include Liberty Bank Alton Amphitheater, Output Unlimited, MustacheMarch4PD, Riverbend First Responders and Calvary Baptist Church.
The event is free to attend, begins at 7 p.m., and will last approximately an hour. Guests are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and blankets.
This year’s keynote speaker is Sarah Deatherage Steele, Kyle’s widow.
“To have your spouse killed while protecting your community is a great loss,” APD Senior Chaplain Marc Lane said. “I reached out to Sarah, as (Kyle) served with both Madison County and with ISP. She is glad to be doing this.”
Along with the speaker, the event will also include a posting of the colors ceremony with the Honor Guard, a wreath presentation, and special music performed by Brent Snyder.
APD and Madison County Sheriff’s Office each have had two fallen officers, while the Illinois State Police has had 63. Representatives from all three agencies will read the names during the ceremony.
“This is going to be powerful,” Lane said. “With Sarah speaking, the Honor Guard, and the sharing of the names, this is a moment in time you do not want to miss.”
Two Honor Guard members participating in the event, APD Sgt. Jeremiah Dressler and APD Sgt. Joel Bromaghim, traveled to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C., in 2017 for Police Day.
“We were fortunate to go the first year after Blake Snyder was killed,” Bromaghim said. “We were able to honor him, which made it even more special. To see law enforcement from all over the world come together is a humbling experience.”
Being a bit shorter than most of his counterparts actually worked to the sergeant’s advantage.
“We were there and trying to figure out where to go,” he said. “Being vertically challenged, I locked in to the edge of the bleachers so I could see. We ended up being the last Honor Guard team that the family passes as they are seated, so the Snyder family was able to see us as they came around that corner.
“We ended up being seen on the national news, just because I am short and wanted to see.”
Dressler said a fellow officer from Belleville, Shane Brown, convinced him to attend the national event.
“It was an experience I will never forget and something I think every officer should experience in their lifetime,” he said. “The reading of the names and remembering the fallen officers is a surreal moment.
“You also witness a real brotherhood; you have never met this person before, but you are hanging out that night, sharing stories.”
Dressler said he is fortunate to be able to bring some of that to the Alton ceremony.
“This is to honor the officers past, current, and in the future,” he said. “This gives us an opportunity to recognize the officers of this department and those around the area and the sacrifices they make every day, not only personally, but their home life and what it actually takes to do this job.”
Lane said Calvary Baptist Church has been instrumental in organizing and funding the event each year. The church will also provide a dinner for local law enforcement and their families during Police Week.
“I have attended the service at Calvary before, and I always thought it would be great if more people could attend,” Tina Bennett of MustacheMarch4PD said. “This is a great way to honor all of our officers, both alive and passed.
“Every day, they put their lives on the line. When you see police reports such as school shootings, you see the kids leaving while the officers are running toward the problem. I think that is a powerful visual for what they do for all of us.”
“For officers, a lot of it is just hearing someone say, ‘Thanks,’” Hejna added. “So very often, when we show up on scene, people don’t want us there as they are experiencing one of the worst moments of their lives. This week just gives officers the opportunity to feel the love that people do have for us that can sometimes get overlooked.”
“The support we get from the community is so important, no matter what it is,” Alton Police Chief Jason “Jake” Simmons said. “Even if it is bringing treats, barbecue ... just a little touch that really brings it home to us that people care.”
Wednesday, May 15, 2019 7:00 PMAlton Amphetheater