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Moving Memorial Wall makes stop in Henry

Photo by Elaine Rackley
The Georgia Law Enforcement Moving Memorial Wall, which honors officers killed in the line of duty, made its way to Henry County Monday. Members of the Blue Knights Law Enforcement Club, which sponsors the wall, were greeted by local law enforcement officers.

Photo by Elaine Rackley The Georgia Law Enforcement Moving Memorial Wall, which honors officers killed in the line of duty, made its way to Henry County Monday. Members of the Blue Knights Law Enforcement Club, which sponsors the wall, were greeted by local law enforcement officers.

By Elaine Rackley

erackley@henryherald.com

The Georgia Law Enforcement Moving Memorial Wall made a stop Monday at the Henry County Sheriff's Office, in McDonough.

Many came to view, and reflect on, the names of comrades killed in the line of duty. Georgia state troopers came in large numbers.

"[The traveling memorial wall] is a way for the community that suffers a loss of one of their officers, to show respect to the family in a personal way," said Henry County Sheriff Keith McBrayer.

"I am proud to participate in such a worthy event, and the Henry County Sheriff's Office will always be there to support the families of these officers that gave their lives to protect others."

The memorial wall was on display, briefly, at the sheriff's office, at 120 Henry Parkway, before making its way to other sites where law enforcement officers died in the line of duty -- Greene County, Rockdale County and to the office of the Georgia State Patrol.

As of April 11, the wall has 623 names of fallen officers, killed since 1852, according to officials of the Blue Knights Law Enforcement Club, which sponsors the exhibit.

So far, 10 officers have been killed in the line of duty in Georgia since the beginning of the year. In eight of those deaths, the officers were mortally wounded by gunfire, said Ed Christian, president of the Blue Knights, and a former Kennesaw Detective. The most recent fatal shooting was in Athens-Clarke County, where Elmer "Buddy" Christian, of the Athens-Clarke County Police Department, was shot and killed, reportedly trying to make an arrest. Officials said he will be added to the wall later this year.

Besides sponsoring the wall, the Blue Knights organization is entrusted with taking the wall from city to city. "Everywhere you take the wall, someone walks up and has a story," Christian said. "It means a lot that we will bring it to every community. We want the public to be aware of how many officers are killed in the line of duty."

This is the first year for the traveling wall, which had its first stop March 18, in Carroll County. "Twenty years ago, we founded the Georgia Police Memorial Ride," said Christian. "The wall is a continuation of that."

The names of three Henry County lawmen are on the wall: Sgt. James Curtis Gilbert, Officer Charles Richard Thomas Haist, and Deputy Marvin Jerome Scarlett. All died as a result of auto accidents.

Sgt. Gilbert and Haist were officers with the Henry County Police Department. Deputy Scarlett was with the Henry County Sheriff's Office.

Deputy Scarlett had 15 years of experience. He served five years with the Henry County Sheriff's Office. He died at age 42, May 20, 2007. His patrol car collided with the back of a delivery truck that stopped on I-75, due to another accident that had just occurred.

Sgt. Gilbert was also a veteran officer, with 20 years of experience. He served 11 years with the county police. He died at age 41, May 2, 2004. He was killed when his patrol car struck the back of a tractor trailer that was parked illegally on the shoulder of I-75. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Officer Haist had six years of experience. He served two years with the county police. He died at age 32, Feb. 16, 2005. "Chuck" Haist was responding to a distress call when his patrol car collided with a pickup truck on McDonough Hampton Road, near I-75. The impact caused Officer Haist's patrol car to overturn and land upside-down.

"The Moving Memorial Wall is a very special tribute to law enforcement officers that have paid the ultimate sacrifice to their community and their profession," said Henry County Police Chief Keith Nichols. "The Wall is also a reminder to the living that we shall never let the memories of these officers, Sgt. Jimmy Gilbert and Officer Chuck Haist, just fade away.

"These two officers will always have a very special meaning to this agency," added Nichols.

Henry County Sheriff's Captain Allan Farmer said whenever he sees the wall, he looks for the name, Robert L. Hylemon. Farmer was working with the Newton County Sheriff's Office in 1976, when Covington Police Officer Hylemon lost his life. "He was killed in a high-speed police chase," said Farmer.

The Blue Knights will celebrate the club's 20th anniversary Saturday, with a motorcycle ride from Turner Field, in Atlanta, to Falcon Field, in Peachtree City. Some 3,000 riders are expected to take part in the event, according to Christian.