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Clay County gathers to honor its fallen

Families of fallen deputies among those attending police memorial service

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The widow of a Clay County Sheriff's Office detective killed during a raid on a meth lab six years ago and her children joined other residents and dignitaries honoring the fallen Tuesday morning at the county's police memorial service.

"He is not defined by the way he died," said Jennifer White, whose husband, David White, was shot and killed in February 2012. "His story was so much more. He was the most happy, loving, kind person. Just a gentle spirit."

White's widow and two children laid a yellow rose on his photo during the service. They want the community to remember how he lived, not how he died.

Their 10-year-old daughter, Ashley White, sang "Oceans (Where My Feet May Fail)" during the service.

The song speaks to the family's close relationship, including the lyric, "My soul will rest in your embrace."

"Dave and I met because of music, and so I loved that she has that gift and that voice and you can hear her heart coming out," Jennifer White said.

SLIDESHOW: Clay County Police Memorial Service

The Whites are one of eight Clay County families who mourned the loss of their loved ones who died the line of duty. Jean Watkins' father, Sgt. Richard Watkins, was killed in a crash while following an ambulance to the hospital in 1976.

"He was a hard worker. He loved what he did with the sheriff's department," Watkins said.

Dozens of people from the county and area law enforcement agencies paid their respects during the ceremony, which included a 21-gun salute, the playing of taps and and a flyover.

White says the killings of three Florida deputies in just the last three weeks is a heartbreaking reminder of the tragedy she and her family are still mourning.

"My message that I always leave with my children is to not be overcome by evil, always overcome evil with good. We just focus on that and focus on things to honor Dave," she said.

Jennifer White hopes more people will respect the men and women who risk their lives every day to protect and serve.