Friday morning, a memorial was held at the Sebastian County Courthouse, 800 South A St., for slain law enforcement officers across the state.

“Today, we remember our true heroes, for they served and they paid the ultimate sacrifice for a purpose far greater than anything we can imagine,” said Fort Smith Police Chief Nathaniel Clark.

Even as National Law Enforcement Week celebrated those who protect and serve, the memorial highlighted how many of those men and women died in the line of duty protecting their communities. Appropriately, the sky was overcast and threatened rain and possible severe weather.

“We celebrate the lives of those who helped turn the tide against those criminal elements who threaten our communities, and they helped remove the barriers of distrust between law enforcement and the communities they protect,” added Clark in his opening statements to the crowd gathered.

“We express our gratitude to the families of these fallen officers,” said Sebastian County judge David Hudson. “Whereas the quality of life we enjoy in our city, state and nation as citizens of the United States of America is maintained and enhanced by the protection of our personal safety and security by our law enforcement officers and their willingness to risk their lives in service to their (communities), we owe an eternal debt of gratitude to the men and women of our law enforcement agencies.”

Judge Hudson’s proclamation of the day’s meaning was with a heavy heart, as many in attendance were not only there to remember Sebastian County Deputy Bill Cooper, but also Lt. Kevin C. Mainhart of the Yell County Sheriff’s Office. Lt. Mainhart was killed May 12 during a traffic stop near Dardanelle.

“Thank you all for answering the call,” said Sebastian County Sheriff Bill Hollenbeck, who gave his personal and professional thanks to all the law enforcement agencies and elected officials who provided support to him and his deputies when Cpl. William “Bill” Cooper was killed in August 2016. “He answered the call to serve his nation by joining the United States Marine Corps, he answered the call by joining the Fort Smith Police Department and serving the citizens of Fort Smith and again he answered the call by joining the Sebastian County Sheriff’s Office. Bill Cooper stood his ground, and never left his fellow deputies alone.”

It was a ceremony that affected and touched every law enforcement agency within the state, even as far up as the Arkansas State Police. As the morning’s guest speaker explained, 50 law enforcement officers across the nation have died this year alone.

“In 2016, we lost 145 officers nationwide,” said Col. Bill Bryant of the Arkansas State Police. “Three of those were in Arkansas: Cpl. Bill Cooper, of the Sebastian County Sheriff’s Office; Robert Aaron Barker, McCrory P.D.; and Lisa Ann Mauldin, Miller County Sheriff’s Office. You might ask, why go into law enforcement? After doing this for 40 years, I know law enforcement’s a-calling. You must have a servant’s heart. We’re in law enforcement to protect those who can’t protect themselves, and I think that has a lot to do with every officer you see here today. They’re here to protect their community.”