Rowan County remembers the fallen

Published 12:10 am Thursday, May 18, 2023

SALISBURY — Family members of law enforcement officers know that every shift could be their loved one’s last.

That nightmare became a reality for Nicole Marsh when her husband, Rowan County Master Deputy Billy Marsh, died in October 2021.

Stories like the Marsh’s are why law enforcement personnel nationwide recognize Peace Officer Memorial Day every year. On the steps of the Rowan County Courthouse Wednesday, various uniformed officers from around the county attended a ceremony to honor those who paid the ultimate price, like Marsh.

Among the crowd was Marsh, who spoke on behalf of her husband’s sacrifice.

“Billy, like men and women who wear the badge, was called,” Marsh said. “That is what law enforcement is. It is a calling and passion that comes with many sacrifices.”

It’s been 19 months since her husband died, forever altering her life’s course.

“It may be different, but it is never easier,” Marsh said. “You never forget. You always feel the pain, but you learn to move forward with that pain.”

The presence of men and women in uniform surrounding the lawn by the fallen officers memorial on Wednesday illustrates to Marsh that her husband, she and their daughter were part of a larger family.

“They serve as reminders that we are not alone and that we will never be alone,” Marsh said. “They check on us. They come to visit. They call. They are always there. Even if they are not there physically, they are always there in spirit.”

That connection has endeared the men and women who, like her father, don the uniform daily to her daughter.

“Our daughter has the utmost respect for law enforcement,” Marsh said. “When we see them, she always associates them with her dad. It serves as that reminder. That Blue Line family is more than just officers. It’s other survivors from other entities from around the country.”

Marsh recalled the day that irrevocably shifted the course of her life.

“When Billy died, our whole world was shattered into a million little pieces,” Marsh said. “It is a nightmare that you never wake up from. You think that it will not happen to you and no one can prepare you for it. It is a life that none of us should have to live.

“Every aspect of my and our daughter’s life changed instantaneously that day. Heartache, sadness, grief, fear and anger only skim the surface of what you feel.”

Since her husband’s death, Marsh indicated she had found ways to feel close to him.

“I have learned to find gratitude because each day I am able to see glimpses of Billy in our daughter, our home, our community and every aspect of life,” Marsh said. “I am also grateful for my Blue Line Family. It is bigger than I ever imagined. It is composed of people who have gone through what we are going through, surviving family members, officers and friends. They are not only native to Rowan County, but they are nationwide and worldwide. I have seen firsthand and felt the strength of this family.”

During the ceremony, Rowan County Sheriff Travis Allen shared a few words from President Abraham Lincoln’s letter to Mrs. Bixby, a mother who lost five sons during the Civil War.

Allen commended those who answered the call to serve and pushed back against what he described as a public narrative that disparages the work of law enforcement.

Salisbury Captain P.J. Smith read a list of North Carolina officers killed in the line of duty the past year.

Peace Officers Memorial Day and Police Week is an observance in the United States that pays tribute to the local, state, and federal peace officers who have died or have been disabled in the line of duty. It is celebrated May 15 of each year.