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Law enforcement, community honor fallen officers

SALISBURY — Michelle Hillard was moved and honored to see the name of her husband, Rick Hillard, etched in stone on a monument dedicated Thursday to him and 11 other fallen law enforcement officers.

Hillard sat surrounded by her son, Joseph; her daughter, Claire Cantu; her grandchildren; and other family members. One grandson was so overcome with emotion about a man he’d never met that he began to cry during the ceremony.

Michelle Hillard said the grandson had heard so many stories about his grandfather, who she said was a practical joker and someone who had a “contagious smile.”

“I’m glad to see this. It’s so beautiful,” she said.

“It’s a huge honor,” Cantu added.

The monument is made of dark stone and sits on the lawn near the Rowan County Courthouse. The names of the officers appear on the front along with the Bible verse John 15: 13, which says, “Greater love has no one than this that he lay down his life for his friends.”

In the center of the monument is a bronzed flame.

Rowan County commissioners Chairman Greg Edds said the monument is 124 years in the making as the first recorded death of a law enforcement officer was in 1895.

Edds said it would be great if law enforcement wasn’t needed, but that’s not the reality.

Salisbury Mayor Al Heggins said the day was all about the men and women who protect us all and who put their lives on the line.

“They protect us making sure we can live in a safe environment,” Heggins said.

Matthew Martin, U.S. attorney for the Middle District of North Carolina, said he works with a lot of law officers who embody the same spirit that the men who sacrificed their lives did. They are courageous, have integrity and are selfless, he said.

Army Pfc. Bobby Clement spoke briefly about the loss of his father, Robert Clement, who died in 1999 and whose name is on the monument.

“My father was and still is my hero,” he said.

Clement said losing his father was the most tragic day for him and his family. He encouraged everyone to pray for an officer who walks the streets and their families.

County Commissioner Mike Caskey, who is also a police officer for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, was one of the leaders who was instrumental in the getting the monument.

He had tossed around the idea along with sheriff’s Sgt. Wes Smith and his wife, Trish, who have traveled throughout the United States visiting other towns with similar monuments.

Caskey thanked the families for the sacrifices they’ve made. He noted that the officers listed never imagined they would not return home that day.

“These brave souls are an example of what we should strive to be,” Caskey said.

The names listed on the monument and the dates of their deaths are:

• Henry Owen, Rowan County Sheriff’s Office, Feb. 20, 1895.

• William Albert Monroe, Salisbury Police Department, Feb. 17, 1909.

• Williamson Murray Linker, Salisbury Police Department, Oct. 26, 1916.

• Lindsey “Linzy” Thomas Yarbrough, Rowan County Sheriff’s Office, June 23, 1927.

• Otis C. Gallimore, Salisbury Police Department, March 30, 1930.

• William Locke McKenzie, Rowan County Sheriff’s Office, July 16, 1931.

• Danny Ray Griffin, Rowan County Sheriff’s Office, June 3, 1986.

• Rickey “Rick” Bill Baugess, Rowan County Sheriff’s Office, Nov. 10, 1988.

• Roger Dale Carter, Kannapolis Police Department, Dec. 31, 1993.

• John Lester Beck, Rowan County Sheriff’s Office, Jan. 27, 1994.

• Robert Young Clement, Spencer Police Department, June 3, 1999.

• Richard “Rick” Allen Hillard, Rowan County Sheriff’s Office, Oct. 17, 1999.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.

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