BILLINGS — More than 150 law enforcement officials from all over Montana gathered in Billings on Wednesday to honor their colleagues who have died in the line of duty, both in state and from around the nation.
"It's important to remember all those officers that gave their lives," said Billings Police Department Officer Tom Keightley, who organized the gathering. "But it's also important for police officers and deputies to remember that this is a real thing, that it can happen on the job."
The Montana Peace Officer Memorial drew in officials from every branch of law enforcement — federal, state, tribal and local — from every corner of the state.
It started Wednesday morning with a parade of 62 law enforcement vehicles with their lights flashing all the way from Dehler Park to MetraPark. The procession included patrol cars, motorcycles and heavy trucks such as SWAT trucks.
At noon, the officials gathered at Rimrock Auto Arena for a memorial service to honor the more than 120 Montana officers who have died in the line of duty dating to the 1800s as well as the 120 who died nationwide in 2012.
"These and many law enforcement officers before them made the ultimate sacrifice for Montanans and we will not forget them," said Montana Attorney General Tim Fox.
Fox described peace officers as "unsung heroes" and told them that "real heroism is found in your ordinary acts of bravery."
The ceremony included the American and Canadian national anthems, bagpipes and a rendition of taps.
During the bagpipes and taps, screens on either side of the stage on the arena floor flashed with the names, agencies, end of watch dates and, if available, their photos.
Yellowstone County Sheriff Mike Linder told those gathered at MetraPark that he clearly remembers when a Billings police officer died in 1989 and a sheriff's deputy died in 2006.
He told them that, after seeing the faces of those who've passed, it's also their responsibility to help prevent more names being added to the list.
"Let us never forget the sacrifices of the men and women of law enforcement," Linder said.