Local observances of National Police Week ended Friday with Cumberland County’s law enforcement officers and Highway Patrol troopers gathered for the third annual Blessing of the Badges.

For the first time, the ceremony included first responders — members of the Fayetteville Fire Department and Cape Fear Valley Health System’s Emergency Medical Services.

They filled the sanctuary of Village Baptist Church and, one by one, walked to the front and laid their badges atop a table covered with a white cloth.

The table was then surrounded by members of the Fayetteville clergy community, who laid hands on the table as the Rev. Floyd Wicker Jr., assistant pastor of First Baptist Church on Moore Street, blessed the badges.

“It’s the perfect way to end National Police Week,” said Fayetteville’s interim police Chief Anthony Kelly. “We have faith that our partners will have our backs and have faith that our Lord will take us home.”

The job of a law enforcement officer is a calling, Sheriff Ennis Wright said.

“That’s what separates us. We move toward danger when everyone else is running away from it.

“We leave home in the morning, hoping we return home at night.”

The featured speaker was the Rev. Richard Mark Lee of Village Baptist Church.

“At times, you’ll face intense stress we’ll never know,” he said.

But Lee let the law enforcement officers know that they are welcome at Village Baptist and other churches.

“We’ve got your back. We honor you and we support you,” he said.

The N.C. Troopers Association Caisson Unit was on hand, waiting in front the church as the service ended.

The caisson is traditionally used to transport the coffins of slain troopers. Four black horses, as well as Caisson Unit members, stood at attention as people gathered to take pictures.

Other speakers included Col. Glenn McNeill, a Columbus County native and commander of the Highway Patrol; Brian Pearce, the EMS corporate director; and Fayetteville Fire Chief Ben Major.


Staff writer Nancy McCleary can be reached at nmccleary@fayobserver.com or 486-3568.