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  • Writer's pictureJoe Lyons

Honoring Heroes: Ashland Law Enforcement Memorial Ceremony Pays Tribute to Fallen Officers

The Ashland Law Enforcement Memorial Ceremony, held annually to honor local law enforcement officers who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving Ashland County, took place with solemn heartfelt reverence. This year's ceremony, held yesterday, saw both the law enforcement community, friends and family highlighting the deep respect and appreciation for those who dedicate their lives to public safety.


The event commenced with a stirring display of patriotism, as Ashland Police Division Officers presented the colors, followed by an opening prayer led by Pastor Harry Strachan of Calvary Baptist Church. State Representative Melanie Miller's rendition of the National Anthem, accompanied by the Pledge of Allegiance led by Lieutenant Randy Wood, set an emotional tone for the evening.


Sheriff E. Wayne Risner, in his address, eloquently emphasized the significance of the ceremony in honoring the memory and sacrifice of fallen officers. He spoke of the enduring bond forged with the families of these brave individuals and reiterated the commitment to never forget their service and sacrifice.


Among the heroes remembered were Deputy Jacob Helbert and Constable William H. Kelly, who tragically lost their lives on February 25, 1888, while attempting to serve a Writ of Habeas Corpus. Their bravery and dedication to duty serve as timeless examples for all who follow in their footsteps.


Detective Sergeant Glenn M. Sturgill, Lt. John P. Gisclon, Trooper James R. Gross, and Ranger James R. Pitney were also honored for their selfless acts of courage. Each of these officers made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty, leaving behind grieving families and a grateful community.


Sheriff Risner made a special mention of the recent loss of members of the US Marshals Task Force in Charlotte, North Carolina, highlighting the shared bond of service and sacrifice among law enforcement agencies across the nation. Deputy U.S. Marshal Thomas M. Weeks, Task Force Officer Samuel Poloche, Task Force Officer William "Alden" Elliott, and Police Officer Joshua Eyer, who lost their lives while serving a fugitive warrant, were remembered with reverence and respect.


Addressing the gathering, Sheriff Risner extended gratitude to Chief Deputy US Marshal Brian Fitzgibbon for his presence and participation in the ceremony, acknowledging the solidarity and camaraderie shared between law enforcement agencies. "As many of you know, Ashland County serves with Richland County and other local agencies as part of the Marshals Service NOVFTF, Chief Deputy US Marshal Brian Fitzgibbon is a credit to the Marshal's service and to law enforcement certainly in this region of Ohio. The Northern Ohio Violent Fugitive Task Force Under Marshal Peter Elliott and Chief Deputy Fitzgibbon's  leadership and guidance working with the local Task force member agencies have made our community safer. " Sheriff Risner remarked,


The guest speaker was former Ashland County Prosecutor and Ashland County Park Commissioner, Robert P. DeSanto of DeSanto & Kellogg, LLC, who delivered a moving address. DeSanto, acknowledging the remarkable dedication of Sheriff Risner, reflected on the selflessness and courage exemplified by law enforcement officers.


In a moving tribute, DeSanto recounted the stories of three fallen heroes from Ashland County: Detective Sergeant Glen Sturgill, Lieutenant John Gisclon, and Trooper James Gross. Each of these officers met their untimely end while steadfastly serving and protecting their community.


Detective Sergeant Glen Sturgill's tragic demise in 1982, while in pursuit of armed robbers, highlighted the dangers faced by law enforcement officers daily. Lieutenant John Gisclon's sacrifice in 1995, responding to a call of a suspicious subject, and Trooper James Gross's loss in 1996, while attempting to apprehend a dangerous criminal, further emphasized the inherent risks of the profession.


DeSanto's tender recollections offered a glimpse into the lives of these courageous individuals, their final moments etched in the collective memory of the community. He emphasized the profound impact of their sacrifices and the enduring legacy they left behind.


The ceremony also served as a platform to express gratitude to law enforcement officers, both active and retired, for their unwavering dedication and service. DeSanto highlighted the inherent goodness and selflessness exhibited by these unsung heroes, who courageously confront the forces of evil to safeguard their communities.


In a touching moment, DeSanto recounted a heartwarming narrative of Lieutenant John Gisclon's heroic act of saving a choking infant, exemplifying the compassion and bravery inherent in law enforcement.


As the ceremony drew to a close, DeSanto reiterated the community's unwavering support for law enforcement and expressed hope that the solemn tribute would provide solace to the families of the fallen officers.


The 2024 Ashland Law Enforcement Memorial Ceremony stood as a heart breaking reminder of the sacrifices made by those who serve on the front lines of justice. As the community came together to honor their fallen heroes, it reaffirmed its commitment to honoring their memory and supporting those who continue to protect and serve with unwavering dedication and valor.


The ceremony concluded with a heartfelt rendition of "Amazing Grace" played on the bagpipes by US Marshal Chief Deputy Brian Fitzgibbon, an 18-gun salute by a Multi-Agency Volley Squad, and the haunting notes of taps by Jim Benshoff, offering a solemn farewell to the fallen, followed by a Benediction prayer by Pastor Austin Rissler.


For Sheriff Risner, this marked his final Memorial Service as the Sheriff of Ashland, capping a distinguished career marked by both triumphs and challenges. Yet, within the myriad experiences, the Memorial Service remained a touching highlight, a testament to the enduring spirit of honor and remembrance that defines law enforcement.


As the ceremony drew to a close, the profound sense of gratitude and respect lingered, serving as a reminder of the debt owed to those who gave their lives to protect and serve. And while the shadows of loss may never fully recede, the light of their sacrifice continues to illuminate the path forward, inspiring all to strive for a safer, more just society.


Kurt Schneider, echoing the sentiments of Sheriff Risner, stressed the significance of National Police Week as a time to honor the dedication and bravery of law enforcement officers nationwide. He emphasized the solemnity of the occasion, recognizing the sacrifices made by officers and their families in service to their communities. Schneider reaffirmed the Ashland County Sheriff's Office's steadfast commitment to upholding the tradition of honoring fallen colleagues and providing unwavering support to grieving families during this week of remembrance.


God's blessings were invoked upon the fallen officers and their families, ensuring that their legacy lives on in the hearts and minds of all who cherish the values of duty, honor, and service.


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