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Honor guard would ensure recognition of fallen heroes

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By Stephen Thomas

 HILLVIEW - The recent death of Bardstown Police Ofc. Jason Ellis affected all law enforcement officials.

With the event taking place so close to home, Hillview Police Ofc. Chuck McWhirter ran through a gamut of emotions. Then he decided to pursue something he had first introduced in the county two years ago.

McWhirter hopes to help establish a Bullitt County Color Guard, comprised of all county police agencies, for various police-related services and countywide functions.

"I took the idea to a (police) chief's meeting in June 2011," he said. "I figured five small agencies could make one big unit."

An established non-profit color guard would be available to properly present colors at various ceremonies. McWhirter said having a team in place would assist at times such as a funeral service for a fallen officer.

"If we have an officer that goes down, we can give them the honors that they deserve," he said. "With this in place, it's one less thing that has to be worried about at that time. It's good to have a specially-trained team in place."

McWhirter, a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, first became involved with a color guard unit in 2003 while serving with a police force in Tennessee.

"I had witnessed the deaths of two officers as a rookie," he said. "I saw the Nashville Police Color Guard unit at that service and I was impressed."

McWhirter began writing grant letters and soliciting funds from local businesses to help establish a new color guard unit for his department.

"We did high school games and holiday events," he recalled. "We even presented at a Tennessee Titans football game."

McWhirter added that a color guard unit serving at various public events allowed the community an opportunity to see and meet local officers without being at a crime scene.

With five city police departments and a sheriffs department in Bullitt County, McWhirter would like the color guard unit to represent all areas and communities.

"We're looking for dedicated members," he said. "We're hoping we can have someone available from each department."

Members would be required to practice for a number of hours each month, learning flag etiquette, flag seniority and the Presentation of Arms.

"It's very important to know flag appropriateness and to display it properly," McWhirter said. "You always need to respect the flag and what it represents."

With enough interest and support, McWhirter hopes in future years to acquire matching Color Guard uniforms for volunteers. He said each officer's uniform could display their own police force on the uniform's shoulders."

McWhirter reported 120 officers killed in the line of duty throughout the country in 2012, with over 50 reported this year, including Ofc. Ellis.

"Our main focus is to honor those officers that have fallen," he said. "Many don't realize how many are killed."

Anyone interested in assisting with the Bullitt County Color Guard program may contact McWhirter through the Hillview Police Department, 955-6808.

To visit the Officer Down Memorial Page go to www.odmp.org.

To learn more about proper flag etiquette and maintenance visit www.usflag.org/flagetiquette.html.