Like most ceremonies honoring those who have passed while in the course of service to the community or the country, Thursday night’s event at Edgewood Baptist Church was not immune to tears of reflection.
Periodically, Doug Day puts together events honoring veterans from all military branches, but this night was different as it also recognized deputies, police officers and firefighters over the past couple decades who had died in the line of duty.
“Tonight, we once again recognize heroes from our military — some that are active, some retired, some deceased,” master of ceremonies Doug Fain said. “And we also remember some other heroes in our own community whose lives were given for the good of you and me.”
The first honoree was Cpl. William Lloyd “Bill” McMillan III, who was killed in action while serving in Iraq on July 8, 2008.
Fain talked about the family man and serviceman who fell in service to his country to protect the rights of Americans.
As far as Jessamine County civil servants, several were honored as their families stood on the stage.
One of the first honored was Nicholasville police officer Paul Ketron, who was killed in 1941 on call while investigating a report of a shooting incident.
Ketron’s story was read along with those of two other law-enforcement officers gunned down in the line of duty.
The first was Jessamine County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Charles “Chuck” Morgan, 51, and deputy Billy Ray Walls, 28, who both died from gunshot wounds sustained Nov. 13, 2001, while performing their duties to serve an arrest warrant. Walls died on the scene, and Morgan passed away several days later.
Sheriff Ethelbert “Bert” Wainscott, 59, was also among the lawmen who were honored. He too was serving an arrest warrant when he suffered a fatal heart attack Feb. 24, 1990.
Lawmen were not the only civil servants to be honored.
Former coroner Joe Northup, 49, died in the line of duty April 1, 2004, after 11 years on the fire department.
When it came to the last two firefighters to be honored, Doug Fain choked up a little because one happened to be his brother.
It was Saturday, Jan. 2, 1993, when Jessamine County Fire Chief Michael Wheeler, 37, and firefighter Cecil Allen Fain, 27, were returning from a structure fire when the water tanker that Wheeler was driving overturned and struck a tree, killing both instantly.
It was an emotionally powerful scene as Nicholasville Mayor Russ Meyer stood behind Doug Fain, ready to take over if he needed to finished the speech.
“It was good, something I needed to do,” Doug Fain said afterward. “I knew I could do it.”
Doug Fain pulled together as he spoke fondly and respectfully of his brother, with Cecil’s son, Kaihlab, listening on the stage to his father’s accolades.
Kaihlab was only 6 months old when his father died.
After the honors of fallen vets and servicemen, a prayer was held.
The final person to be honored that night was former Kentucky State Trooper and Gunnery Sgt. James A. Fry.
The African-American serviceman, Fry, stood on stage while magistrates and other elected officials shook his hand in thanks for his service.
“It was our 44th event, and we’ve honored more than 3,700 veterans living and dead,” Day said. “But this was the first time we honored police and fire, and it was a very successful event.”