As Macon-Bibb County paid tribute to its fallen peace officers, sheriffs Sgt. Mark Schultz thought of Mike Thomas.
Under the shadow of an American flag hanging from two aerial ladders, dozens of people gathered Friday morning at Public Safety Memorial Park to remember Thomas and 27 other men who died serving Macon and Bibb County.
Schultz thinks each day of Thomas, who at age 32 was killed in an Emery Highway motorcycle accident in 2008 and became Bibbs seventh deputy killed in the line of duty.
He was a fun-loving family man. He was outgoing, real fun to be around, just a super nice guy, Schultz said.
The partners rode together, side by side, eight hours a day.
We were probably together more than we were with our regular families, he said.
The annual Peace Officers Memorial Day observance recalls the ultimate sacrifices of Macon police officers, Bibb County sheriffs deputies and Macon-Bibb County firefighters, beginning with deputy Ben Wilder, who was killed in 1892.
We also voice our appreciation to those who currently serve us and protect us with courage and dedication, said Warren Selby, chairman of the Macon-Bibb Law Enforcement Foundation.
Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down ones life for his friends, Selby said, quoting from John 15:13.
The names of the fallen are etched in black stone monuments in the park that runs in the middle of Mulberry Street near Second Street.
A bell tolled for each name read.
Deputies and firefighters laid white roses at the base of each monument for each fallen man.
A slow salute followed.
Today we gather together in memory of many and in honor of all, said Bibb Sheriff David Davis, who also recognized the families left behind.
Without their love and support, these heroes we honor today never would have been ours to borrow.
Ten firefighters died on duty between 1920 and 1997.
Let us never forget to always remember to be worthy of the sacrifice that they have made in our name in our behalf, Fire Chief Marvin Riggins told those sitting and standing in the morning sun.
Representing the former Macon Police Department, Bibb sheriffs Col. Henderson Carswell called the names of the 11 policemen who have died on duty.
Let us recall their bravery, reflect on their faithfulness and pray for their families that will never be forgotten, Carswell said.
Mayor Robert Reichert pledged continued support for all the communitys peace officers and first responders.
Who, on a daily basis, subject themselves to risk of loss of life or other serious injury, Reichert said.
He joined Davis, Riggins and Carswell in laying a wreath of white flowers at the monuments.
As the bagpipes droned Amazing Grace, three Georgia State Patrol helicopters flew toward the crossed ladders.
One flew directly over the draped stars and stripes, while the two others veered off in missing man formation.