A small crowd gathered outside the Orange Beach Municipal Court entrance Friday to remember those officers lost to the Orange Beach Police Department over the years.
The police department was established in 1984 and has been dutifully “protecting paradise” ever since. Five officers were honored at the ceremony attended by police, citizens and elected officials alike.
Chief of Police Joe Fierro said it was important to remember the sacrifices made, but also the privilege the department shares as public servants in Orange Beach.
“I reflect on what prompts all of us to serve and become police officers,” Fierro said. “I truly believe we make a positive difference in the lives of the public we serve and with each other. It’s done selflessly without fanfare or recognition in most cases. Simply knowing that all of us are making a positive difference in someone’s life gives us a life living that matters. That’s what these fine men did as they came to work and what we need to remember.”
Orange Beach Councilman Jerry Johnson said it always alerts him when a passage in the bible is repeated more than once.
“That’s when God is saying ‘just listen,’” Johnson said. “In Deuteronomy and in first and second Chronicles and also in Joshua, it clearly states ‘Be strong and courageous, never be fearful, for I am with you every step of the way.’ We are in the midst of heroes. It really touches your heart. They left us way before they should have. We are very appreciative of their service.”
Johnson went on to ask the audience to remember they were in the midst of heroes at the present and to continue to pray for the city’s first responders.
“They save lives every day,” Johnson said. “Our goal as a city council is to have the best equipment for our first responders where we save their lives first, and then they can save others.”
Assistant Chief Steve Brown read the names of those officers being honored before asking the attendees to observe a moment of silence.
Orange Beach officers and employees who were remembered and given moments of silence included: Cpl. Glenn Lewellen- investigations- served OBPD 1999-2011, Lt. Joe Constantino- served OBPD 1996-2015, Sgt. Travis Coleman- served OBPD 2004-2017, Cpl. Michael D. Stockwell, served OBPD from 2004 to end of watch Sept. 17, 2013 and Animal Control Officer John Bonifay - served OBPD 2010-2017.
All of the officers’ deaths were health/medical related except for Stockwell who was killed in a two-car crash on the Foley Beach Express on his way home from work on Sept. 17, 2013.
Fierro reflected on the ceremonies he has attended for officers all over who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
“It’s gut-wrenching,” Fierro said. “They were lost simply for doing their jobs, doing what the public expects, doing what so many won’t do or can’t do and fulfilling an oath to serve.”
Fierro also spoke about sacrifice. He said death is just one sacrifice an officer makes.
“It’s the ultimate sacrifice,” Fierro said. “Every day, everybody here in uniform leaves their families and friends to approach unknown threats in many forms. In doing so, we’re all confronting in many cases the worst humanity has to offer. As we move forward, we must think of these officers, but also the families they leave behind. We have a commitment to remember them as well and support them, because they go on without them.”