- May 14, 2021
Local law enforcement officers and residents, many of them holding blue electric candles, walked together up State Road 100 the evening of May 18 to honor the lives of deputies who died in service.
The march began at the Kim C. Hammond Justice Center and ended half a mile west at the Flagler County Sheriff's Operations Center, where Sheriff Rick Staly and his deputies led a ceremony recognizing the five local law enforcement officers who died on duty.
"For everyone here who protected their community and our county as a public servant, past or present, you know that every moment that you spend with your spouse, your children, your parents or your friends means a little bit more to us, as you never know when it might be your last opportunity to say, 'I love you,' or give your wife son or daughter a hug," Staly said. "We also know that without the love sacrifice and support of our family and friends, our service would not be possible. ... And for those here tonight who have been touched by the fallen heroes we honor here tonight, know that you have been called to carry a very special burden — one that you did not ask for. Nothing that I say here tonight can ease that burden, but know that we mourn with you and join together tonight in a candlelight vigil to pay tribute and show our gratitude to your loved ones."
In Flagler County, five officers have died on duty: Sheriff Perry Hall, in 1927; Deputy Sheriff George "Son" Durrance, in 1927; Sheriff Homer W. Brooks, in 1965; Deputy Charles "Chuck" Sease, in 2003; and Sergeant Francesco "Frankie" Celico, in 2011. Hall, Durrance and Sease died in the line of duty; Brooks and Celico died of natural causes on duty.
So far this year, 50 law enforcement officers around the country have died in the line of duty, including two in Florida, Staly said.
Neither was from Flagler. But, Staly said, "We were reminded just a few days ago just how dangerous our profession is when a violent offender fired a dozen shots at a veteran sergeant responding to a 911 call for help." The deputy was not injured, and the suspect was ultimately arrested.
"I have served in law enforcement for over 40 years," Staly said. "I know that this is not a job with normal hours or minimal risk. Although most return home to their loved ones at the end of the shift, there is always a chance that they may be called up on to make the ultimate sacrifice. It is a heavy burden to carry, but one that every law enforcement officer accepts. When others are running from danger, we are running toward it. Those we honor tonight accepted the risk for the betterment of our community."
The names of the local law enforcement officers who died in service were called out during the ceremony as family members placed flowers at the black granite memorial in front of the entrance to the Sheriff' Operations Center.