JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Flanked by the Sheriff's Office Honor Guard, Sheriff Rick Beseler and his men and women on Tuesday morning honored Detective David White and seven others who gave their lives protecting the people of Clay County.
Beseler spoke at ceremony at the newly renovated front lot in front of the recently renamed David A. White Memorial Headquarters building in Green Cove Springs that includes a new law enforcement memorial to Clay County's fallen officers.
The memorial includes a granite memorial wall, two granite benches, a new flagpole and engraved pavers. From the landscaping, to the engraving and the construction, this tribute was made possible completely through donations.
"What's really poignant about this whole thing is, David lost his life fighting the war on drugs and we used funds from our seized drug money to offset the cost (of this monument)," Beseler said. "The community paid $20 each for the pavers you see around. And we had donations of labor from many community leaders."
The memorial honors not just White, who died last year in a raid on a meth house in Middleburg, but all those who died on duty.
"While David is one of the freshest in our minds, we don't want to forget about the family members of the other members of the sheriff's office who died," Beseler said. "We wanted to equally honor the eight people who have died."
Charles Shinholser said it was important for him to be at Tuesday's service. He belongs to COPS -- Concerns of Police Survivors -- which helped build the memorial.
He knows the feelings of loss first-hand. His son, Ray Shinholser Jr., was a Jacksonville police officer who was killed in a motorcycle crash. He has two grandsons now serving with Clay County.
"It never gets easier. Ray was killed in 1988. Some days I cry," Shinholser said. "I speak a lot all over the country. Some days I can get up and talk about him. Some days I can't. As long as I live, Ray will never die."
This is Clay County's first permanent law enforcement memorial -- a place to not only to hold the annual police memorial day ceremony, but where people can come every day to remember those who have fallen.
"The message is to recognize the survivors, let them know what this means to us that their loss is our loss and we just want to make sure they understand our heart felt sincere gratitude for their service," said Clay County Major Michael Hardee.