October 23rd, 2011, Richmond County Sheriff's Office Motorcycle Deputy J.D. Paugh saw a suspicious vehicle on Bobby Jones Expressway while he was off-duty. Before he could even put his kickstand down, Fort Gordon soldier Christopher Hodges fired 35 rounds from his M-4 semi-automatic assault rifle killing Deputy Paugh, then himself.
As the CSRA was still mourning for J.D., another officer was killed while doing his job. Aiken Department of Public Safety Master Officer Scotty Richardson made a traffic stop on December 20th, when authorities say Stephon Carter pulled a gun from his pocket and opened fire.
Just 5 days before Christmas, Scotty's three young sons were left without their father. For the next 5 months, both the Richmond County and Aiken communities would pull together to send the officeRs to Washington, D.C for National Police Week.
After raising thousands of dollars, their hard work paid off...
"Seeing his name on the wall...that was hard," said Deputy Matt Lamb, of the Richmond County Sheriff's Office.
"It's real sad, but we're trying to cope with it," said Pat Richardson, Master Officer Scotty Richardson's mother.
Both Deputy Paugh and Officer Richardson's legacies are not only etched in the memories of those who love them, but in our nation's history...at the Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington D.C., their names were called out along with the hundreds of others who lost their lives last year.
"J.D. was one of hundreds of law enforcement officers who have given their lives this past year and, unfortubnately, it's going to continue to be that way and it's great that we have people who are willing to make that sacrifice for the community," said Investigator Charles Mulherin, of the Richmond County Sheriff's Office.
As candles burn bright, while families and co-workers honor the fallen officers, they know their memories will never burn out...
"It's amazing the thin blue line, just the awe of everything there," said Officer Matt Comer, of the Aiken Department of Public Safety.
As the candlelight vigil went out with a bang Sunday, Monday was a day of reflection. The Richmond County deputies went to Arlington National Cemetery. As I walked around the more than 600 acres with them, it wasn't until we stopped to do the interviews that I realized how much J.D. and this trip meant to them.
"He was just a close friend, co-worker and I miss him," said Sergeant Scott Redman.
"When we first walked in here you looked around and said, 'freedom isn't free'," we commented to Corporal Bill Wright. "It's not...it's not," he said.
On Tuesday, the President of the United States honored J.D, Scotty, and all of the police officers who gave their lives for our freedom.
"This willingness to risk everything for a complete stranger is extraordinary, yet among our nation's law enforcement officers, it is also commonplace," said President Barack Obama.
The families placed a rose in their honor.
As the officers closed out their journey to D.C, they know they will never be able to close this chapter in their lives.
"It's something that's not going to go away, if we're here next year we'll still be feeling the same way," said Corporal Michael Lewis, of the Richmond County Sheriff's Office.
"We will always remember this, but yet, I think it's going to help us move forward," said Captain Maryann Burgess, of the Aiken Department of Public Safety.
Next year, Aiken Department of Public Safety Officer Sandy Rodgers will be honored in Washington, D.C. That's because she was killed in the line of duty in 2012.
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