Fallen Officers Memorialized in Baxley

In towns large and small, men and women put themselves in danger to keep us all safe. In Baxley, at the Appling County Detention Center, people gathered to remember officers lost.

Not every community does this kind of observance. Many might do it the first year after they lost an officer. Few would keep it going almost 20 years.

All heads were bowed as officers and others gathered for Baxley's 18th annual Police Memorial. It's a time to remember those who've given their lives to protect and serve.

"When you commit to do this, we are all part of a big family," said Chief James Godfrey of the Baxley police.

If anyone needed proof, a wreck nearby served as a solid reminder. A five-car wreck in Appling County with three log trucks sent a Brunswick trooper to the hospital this morning. But this small community has lost only one officer in the line of duty.

"Deputy [Woodrow] Simmons was directing traffic around an accident and a women hit him without realizing he was there," said Chief Dep. Charlie Beach of the Appling County Sheriff's Office.

Organizers of this memorial say it's not just about the deputy lost here 20 years ago, but the officers lost nationwide at a rate of one every three days.

As the 21-gun salute cleared, Chief Godfrey said officers in communities like Baxley are no safer than those in the big cities. They risk their lives every day they wear the badge.

In the past 12 months, Georgia communities lost four officers in the line of duty.

As far as the accident this morning, Senior Trooper Joe Milburn was on the way from Brunswick to training in Forsyth. He's at Memorial Health.

Reported by: Dal Cannady, dcannady@wtoc.com