“At 31 years old, my world was shattered,” said Amy Ellis, widow of Bardstown Police Officer Jason Ellis, who was killed in the line of duty five years ago today. “We lost all our hopes and dreams. I was terrified and angry.”
Amy Ellis spoke Thursday during the Kentucky Law Enforcement Memorial ceremony, which honored the lives of five Kentucky officers who died in the line of duty. Ellis told the gathered crowd that she spoke to memorialize her husband – not just as an officer – but as the devoted, loving father and husband he was to her and their two sons.
“I have spent the past five years trying to crawl out of the fog and PTSD from my husband being murdered,” Ellis said. “These are the harsh realities of being a police officer widow. Our husbands swore an oath, but it was us who have made the sacrifices to make it possible.
“It’s important to all of us who loved him that he isn’t remembered just for being an officer killed in the line of duty,” Ellis continued. “We want to honor him for the life he lived. By not forgetting. We honor him by choosing to live a life that would make him proud. It is up to us to be sure the legacy of who they were and the way they served is not forgotten.”
The name of Louisville Metro Police Officer Nicholas Rodman, who died March 29, 2017, was added to the memorial. Additionally, Louisville Police Officer James Harrison, Clarkson Police Officer John Skaggs, Salyersville Police Officer Lewis Marshall and Kentucky State Police Trooper David Gibbs also were honored among their family, friends and comrades.
Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Secretary John Tilley served as the keynote speaker for the ceremony. He offered his gratitude to the officers who serve the commonwealth daily and his praise for those who have sacrificed their lives for others.
“We need you,” he said. “We’re safer because of you. Our families, our children are safer because of you. We are more secure because of you. That can never be understated. What you do is extraordinary.”
The ceremony was conducted at the Kentucky Law Enforcement Memorial, located at the Department of Criminal Justice Training on Eastern Kentucky University’s campus. The Kentucky State Police Honor Guard presented colors and the Louisville Metro Police Department conducted the 21-gun salute.
This year’s historical recognitions range from 1881 to 2015, but their names only recently were added to the national memorial. A name must meet two criteria before it is placed on the Kentucky Law Enforcement Memorial; first it must already appear on the National Law Enforcement Memorial, and second, a KLEMF nomination form must be completed and submitted.
The Kentucky Law Enforcement Memorial monument is the only monument in the commonwealth that recognizes nearly all Kentucky peace officers who have been killed in the line of duty. This year’s additions bring the total number of names on the monument to 541.
The memorial foundation was established in 1999 to build the unique memorial. Once the monument was completed in 2000, the organization expanded its efforts to include an ongoing financial endowment program, which helps Kentucky peace officers and their families with educational, medical and emergency needs.