ALPENA - Since Project Blue Light started in Alpena 14 years ago, area law enforcement and firefighters have been honoring their brothers and sisters across the United States who have made the ultimate sacrifice while under the oath to protect and serve.
Gloria Egelski was the driving force behind the Project Blue Light ceremony in Alpena, and with the help of a dedicated community, the ceremony has continued to grow.
"I think they all deserve more praise for the job they do," Egelski said. "The support is overwhelming. I have so many people that come and help. I can't say enough about the support."
News Photo by Nicole Grulke
First Lt. Mike Hahn was the master of ceremony at the Project Blue Light ceremony on Wednesday night at the APlex. The ceremony honored law enforcement officers and firefighters who lost their lives in the line of duty. For more photos on this event, go to cu.thealpenanews.com.
Over 300 community members, law enforcement officers and firefighters gathered at the APlex on Wednesday night to honor the fallen and their families.
"We have a memory table for the fallen officers and firefighters that all have ties to Alpena," Egelski said.
Community members who attended the ceremony were given a blue light to show their support for those in service, and were encouraged to keep the light on to show their ongoing support.
First Lt. Mike Hahn of the Michigan State Police Alpena Post was the master of the ceremony and said that of the 92 law enforcement officers killed in the United States this year, three of them were from Michigan. Two firefighters from Michigan who lost their lives in the line of duty also were honored for their sacrifice.
"Project Blue Light is an opportunity for the community to come together and honor those who have given their lives in the line of duty," Hahn said. "Firefighters have been honored during Project Blue Light since (Sept. 9, 2011), when so many of them lost their lives along with our brothers, and they are from a brotherhood just as tight knit as law enforcement."
Alpena Fire Department Chief Bill Forbush, representing the Alpena Fire Department and the Thunder Bay Area Firefighters, said he was honored to participate in the ceremony and thanked law enforcement for including firefighters in the program.
Guest speaker Phil Wiser, retired Alpena Police Department officer and criminal justice instructor, emphasized the importance of the job firefighters and law enforcement officers have.
"It's a calling more than a job," Wiser said. "It's in our blood. It's what we do. Once that badge is pinned on, it blends with the soul of the officer wearing it."
During the ceremony, fallen officers and firefighters with ties to Alpena were recognized and honored for their service, and their names were read with a summary of their story. Family members present held a blue light in honor of their memory and watched a slide show memorial with photos of each fallen officer and firefighter.
"It's important to remember them in our daily lives," Hahn said. "Blue light is a sign of support for all of our local law enforcement and firefighters. It's very encouraging for us to see the community come together. This event has grown from a small outdoor ceremony in snow with a small Christmas tree to the wonderful event it is today."
Hahn said if he could say anything to those who lost their lives in the line of duty, he would tell them "thank you," and "they have our eternal gratitude."
"We know they didn't think this would ever happen, but they knew it could, and continued to serve faithfully and fearlessly," Hahn said. "I want to also say thank you to all of the people who have worked so hard to make this ceremony possible. It's a year long endeavor and Gloria Egelski and the whole crew work selflessly to make this happen."
Project Blue Light encourages everyone to show their support and remember those who have died to protect them by placing a blue light in their window this holiday season.
Nicole Grulke can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5687. Follow Nicole on Twitter @ng_alpenanews.