The annual Police Memorial Ceremony hit close to home this week, as Alaska and the Kenai Peninsula community paid tribute to Kenai Officer John Watson, who was killed in the line of duty Christmas night. He is among 42 law enforcement officers who have died in Alaska since statehood.
Officer Watson also was honored in Washington, D.C., this week during National Police Week ceremonies, and his name was added to the police memorial there. His was one of 362 names added to the memorial this year.
The community of Kenai continues to look for an appropriate way to honor Officer Watson, a much loved and well respected 18-year veteran of the Kenai Police Department. Contributions now are being collected to make such a memorial happen.
In an open letter to the Kenai community, Kenai Police Chief Chuck Kopp, Kenai Mayor John Williams and Kenai Chamber of Commerce President Tim Navarre this week wrote: "Many of you have voiced your desire to create a memorial to John and his contribution to our city, so for the month of May the Kenai Chamber of Commerce has established a memorial fund in his name. ... The Watson family and the Kenai Police Department will determine at a future date how best to utilize these funds for a fitting memorial. John committed his life to making our city a safe place to live, and we know that as a community we can come together to achieve this goal."
All donations to the memorial fund are tax deductible. They can be made in Officer Watson's name at First National Bank of Alaska, Wells Fargo, Alaska USA Federal Credit Union and KeyBank.
Wednesday's ceremony at the Soldotna Police Department once again reminds us of the debt of gratitude we owe those willing to put their lives on the line on a daily basis to keep our community safe. Let's not ever take them for granted.
It also should encourage us to do our part to make our community as safe as possible by playing by the rules designed to protect us all and treating others as we want to be treated.
There is no way to adequately thank or pay tribute to those who lay down their lives in service to others. But it's a step in the right direction when we live in such a way that we reduce the risks they face in their jobs.
It is fitting that we continue to remember Officer Watson's life and his sacrifice and say thanks to his colleagues who continue to serve in law enforcement on the peninsula and throughout the state.
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