This past week, Okaloosa County said a final farewell to Deputy Bill Myers. As Crestview Police Department senior chaplain, I attended Myers' funeral with law enforcement officers from all over the state and beyond.
The weather on the day of the funeral — with torrential rains and high winds — was among the worst I have seen in a long time.
As a procession of law enforcement, fire, ambulance and first responder vehicles spanning at least 3 miles traveled from Northwest Florida State College to the Boardwalk on Okaloosa Island, the weather did not abate.
Along the trek, American flags lined sidewalks of schools, homes and businesses. Children and adults held flags in the stiff wind.
In spite of the driving rain and gusty wind, the procession of vehicles was greeted with waves, tears, cheers, salutes and signs of appreciation.
People of all ages — infants wrapped in protective clothing, held by loving parents; school children under walkways at their schools; parents lovingly explaining to their young children what was taking place before them; and senior citizens sitting in wheelchairs — lined roadways to pay respects and show their support.
People driving vehicles in the opposite direction stopped, dimmed their lights, and turned on their flashers.
Military personnel stood at attention and saluted in various places along the route. Some offered rounds of applause to show their appreciation.
Chick-Fil-A in Niceville opened its doors to provide a warm, dry place for officers to gather once the procession concluded; and offered a free meal.
The apostle Paul said, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
At the funeral, I heard words of thanks for the way Myers touched people’s lives. I heard words of thanks for his friendship to so many people.
Now, I, too, would like to offer some words of thanks — to the people of Okaloosa County.
The Rev. Mark Broadhead is pastor at Laurel Hill Presbyterian Church and First Presbyterian Church of Crestview.