(Beaver Dam) Several members of the Beaver Dam Police Department were part of the Honor Guard at the recent funeral of fallen officer. Sergeant Erik Smedema recounted the experience for us Friday on WBEV’s Community Comment. Smedema, Sergeant Craig Retzlaff and officer’s Ryan Borchardt and Jeremiah Johnson were representatives of the department at the funeral of Milwaukee Police Officer Michael Michalski. The 17-year department veteran was tragically killed as he and a team of officers closed in on a suspect wanted on drug and domestic violence offenses.
Sergeant Smedema says incidents like this have an impact on both the officers and their families. He says officers go out there every day not knowing if that day could be their last day. While they push those concerns to the back of their minds, a police officer never knows when it could be their time. Smedema told us that after the Milwaukee shooting, his wife was nervous about him returning to work. He says that can be similarly hard on many families, but it is also a reminder that life is precious.
The honor guard representatives from Beaver Dam joined honor guard members from across the country including posts in New York, Boston, and Chicago. Smedema says there was one member of the honor guard with local ties to Beaver Dam as well. Gretchen Rocha, a graduate of the Beaver Dam Citizen Police Academy, now a member of the Dallas Police Department, was present in Milwaukee. Smedema says Officer Rocha attended the event in gratitude of Honor Guard representatives of from Milwaukee who attended similar funerals in Dallas.
Smedema says his role as a member of the honor guard is a humbling one. He was proud of the support from other law enforcement agencies, and especially the community, during the funeral procession. The 31-mile long procession was led by police motorcycles and followed up by numerous police squad cars – including the car of the late Officer Michalski – as it traveled down Interstate 94 during rush hour. Smedema says every overpass had a fire truck that was filled with citizens young and old who turned out to pay their respects to the fallen officer.
Photographs by Daniel Kuhnz