Regardless of when, where or why, Americans can call the police, a group of men and women sworn to protect and serve the people.
Bearing that burden alone makes law enforcement officers heroes, U.S. Attorney Bill Killian said Thursday.
Sometimes, though, the job requires an even greater sacrifice. Some 111 American law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty in 2013, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
Killian addressed police and the families of local fallen officers at the Hamilton County-Chattanooga Courts Building during Thursday's Law Enforcement Memorial Ceremony honoring 58 area officers and two canine officers who have died in the line of duty over the past 135 years.
Three years have passed since a local police officer died while on duty. Chattanooga Police Department Sgt. Tim Chapin suffered a fatal gunshot wound while responding to a robbery in 2011.
Dry eyes were hard to find as current officers and some family members of fallen officers placed roses at a memorial while the names of those who have been killed were read as the Central High School concert band softly played.
"To honor these officers, it's great that the community comes out and that this is done every year," said Frank Jacks, father of Chattanooga police Officer Julie Jacks who was killed while serving in 2002. "It means a lot to me personally."
The support of other families that have suffered similar tragedies helps in the grieving process, Jacks said.
Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond and incoming Chattanooga Police Chief Fred Fletcher participated in the ceremony.
"When our families stay home, they don't know what's going on," said Fletcher, who led the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of the ceremony. "Events like this are as much for them as they are for us. They're the ones who have lost a father or son or a brother or sister."
The 111 officer fatalities nationwide in 2013 were the fewest since 1959, according to the data kept by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
More than 13 years have passed since a Hamilton County sheriff's deputy died in the line of duty. Deputy Donald Bond was killed Sept. 6, 2001.
"A hero is defined as a person who exhibits extraordinary courage and fortitude," Killian said. "These officers, like many others, may be called upon to exhibit the courage and fortitude to respond to a situation. They respond without reservation, it's what they do and who they are."
Contact staff writer David Cobb at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6731.