JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – City and community leaders and loved ones gathered Tuesday morning for the annual Police Memorial Day service, which pays tribute to Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office personnel who died in the line of duty.
A new name was added to the Police Memorial Wall outside the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena.
Lt. Christopher Cunningham died last year following complications from COVID-19. A 22-year veteran of JSO, Cunningham contracted the virus while working on the job.
He became the 63rd JSO member to die in the line of duty since the agency started keeping a record. On Tuesday, his widow, Lisa, helped unveil his name on the memorial wall, next to his fellow officers who died in the line of duty.
“It’s overwhelming, in a beautiful way, honoring his sacrifice and all the others, that sacrifice,” Lis Cunningham said. “It just quiets my spirit, humbles my spirit, just to know the organization that he worked for, he loved with all his heart -- It’s rare that you can find an organization that you love with your heart and for them to love you back.”
There was prayer, a 21-gun salute, and a flyover to mark the solemn ceremony, which honored all 63 officers who died in the line of duty. Their names were read aloud in their memory.
“It’s almost bittersweet, if I can say that. The honor as I said, but it’s almost, he’s gone. He’s gone. And up until now, hearing the last call, with the way it’s done with his name on the wall -- it’s beautiful, but it’s sad at the same time. If I can say that,” Lisa Cunningham said.
Lisa Cunningham said even years after becoming part of JSO, her husband’s love for serving the citizens of Jacksonville never wavered.
“He’d get up and start that morning as if it was the first day on the job -- with excitement,” she said. “Just, every morning. Prayer, and then just chipper. He’s going off. He loved the job.”
Having experienced this loss, Lisa Cunningham has a simple message: cherish every moment you have with those you love.
“Do not let differences get in the way of treating that day like it’s your final day,” Cunningham said.