(Laurel) The 2019 Jones County Peace Officer Memorial was held Wednesday, May 15 at the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art in Laurel. After the opening welcome by Major Jamie Tedford of the Jones County Sheriff’s Department and the invocation by Soso Police Chief Jimmy McCoy, the Laurel Police Department Color Guard conducted the presentation of colors, which was followed by the singing of the national anthem by Emily Taylor. There was special recognition at the memorial event for former Laurel Police Chief Tyrone Stewart and former Jones County Deputy Randy Chancellor. Delbert Hosemann, who is serving his third term as Mississippi’s secretary of state, was invited by Sheriff Alex Hodge as the guest speaker.
“Today Jones County law enforcement agencies remember our brothers and sisters here at home and across the country that paid that ultimate price, as well as continue to show our love and support to their family and friends,” said Tedford in his opening remarks.
“Days like today are never easy, and they are certainly not pleasant,” added Sheriff Hodge. “Most, if not all of us, in this room grew up with the Stewart family and the Chancellor family. Many of us worked with those families, so today is a day of memory as we honor and reflect, not only on these two families but on all families who have lost and will lose loved ones for various reasons, including in the line of duty.”
The sheriff asked the audience to remember to pray for the men and women who are serving as law enforcement officers, with some of them serving unto death. “As we do our jobs, we appreciate you doing yours. Part of your duty includes continuing in prayer, intercessory prayer, lifting up by name law enforcement officers.”
Secretary of State Hosemann opened his presentation by noting of his amazement of the LRMA facility, the things going on in Laurel, and the community spirit he sensed here in Jones County. Hosemann then reflected for a few minutes about his time spent at the funeral and with the family of recently slain Biloxi police officer Robert McKeithen. As he learned more about McKeithen’s life and service at the officer’s funeral, he said he became angry about what happened, about how the officer’s life was taken. Hosemann suggested that some members of his audience in Laurel struggled with those same feelings of anger.
“He was about to retire and had things he wanted to do,” recounted Hosemann. “Those were taken away from him. In my mind he was assassinated.”
“But the preacher got up at the end of the service, and he said it was alright to be angry. I think he was right. We should resolve that anger we feel into respect,” he continued. “Every day we need to pay respect to people who wear the uniform, every single day. They are leaving their house to make sure I come home, that I’m safe. They are out there protecting people they don’t know. We need to remember that the barrier between chaos and lawlessness and us living our lives and raising our families is law enforcement.”
The secretary of state pointed out that economic development and building better schools and all related progress is important, but he said that such progress cannot be accomplished without the order and protection that law enforcement affords us.
Hosemann closed by saying that he represents three million people in Mississippi and “nearly all of them are like us. They care for each other” and are not like the individual that murdered officer McKeithen.
“Mississippi has a bright future. We need to emphasize those (who care) and excise the ones that don’t believe like we do and won’t treat each other like we want to be treated. We need to respect and honor law enforcement. I appreciate the sheriff inviting me here today, and it’s an honor to be associated with you.”