Monument honors fallen troopers

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Mississippi Highway Patrol Troop M is now able to remember in atangible way fallen troopers Danny Nash and Steven Gardner.

A monument now stands in front of Troop M and beneath the flag,which is currently flying half-staff. “In Memory of MississippiState Troopers of TROOP M who have died while serving andprotecting others. Dedicated June 12, 2007” is written on themonument.

Troop M officials held a ceremony Tuesday morning to dedicatethe monument honoring their fallen comrades Nash and Gardner, whodied in 1983 and 1984, respectively.

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“Those of us here at the time know all too well the sacrificesmade by these two young men,” said Capt. Charles Brill. “Loss issomething we deal with and accept every day we put on the uniform,but we hope and pray we never have to add a name to this list.”

Col. Mike Berthay, who graduated from the Mississippi LawEnforcement Officers Training Academy with Nash, spoke of thesacrifice both officers made.

“Both of these troopers gave their lives protecting the citizensof the state of Mississippi,” he said. “They both servedcourageously and with valor, and both were exemplary officers.These are among those times you don’t forget no matter how muchwater goes under the bridge.”

Among those attending Tuesday’s ceremony was First Lady MarshaBarbour. Barbour spoke about loss not only as it applies to thetroopers left behind, but as it applies to the families of thefallen troopers.

“We’re always struck by how strong the families are and how theyunderstand the cause their sons and husbands were committed to,”she said. “As Haley’s wife and a citizen who never sees what you doday in and day out, thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

Nash was shot by the driver of a stolen car he pulled over onFeb. 4, 1983. His gun was still in its holster when a civilianfound him lying just in front of his patrol car. Both of passengersof the car were apprehended five months later.

“The night Danny was killed, Jerome Lee called and told me’Danny Nash just got killed,'” said Lt. Ralph Smith, who alsograduated with Nash. “Suddenly the game of policeman I’d beenplaying wasn’t a game anymore. I sat on the side of my bed untildaylight trying to decide if I were going to remain anofficer.”

Nash’s killer is currently sentenced to life without parole.

“I know where Danny’s faith was,” said Smith. “And I know hetouched the face of Jesus just seconds after he died.”

Gardner was shot and killed by a suspect whom he had arrestedearlier in the day. The man bonded out of jail and went looking forGardner after changing cars. Once he found him, he purposely raninto the car.

The trooper notified dispatch he had been in an accident and wasgoing to check on the other driver, who shot him between the panelsof his vest. As he fell, he returned fire, killing hisassailant.

“I think his story ended as well as a tragic story like hiscould. He was an exemplary officer and well-trained, and he shotand killed the assailant that took his life,” said Berthay to theother troopers. “But every day you have to know the price that hasbeen paid for the uniform you wear.”

Smith reminded them not only of the price paid by those gone on,but the potential cost to those left behind.

“It’s serious,” he said. “Go home to your folks everynight.”

The monument was a gift from Brookhaven Monument, which donatedit in honor of its own 60th anniversary this year.

“We had this idea about five or six years ago, and we decided todo it for our 60th anniversary,” said Brookhaven Monument PresidentDave Pace. “So we’ve celebrated that way and plus, we can do thisfor them.”

Brill was among many troopers who thanked Brookhaven Monumentfor the generous gift, saying the Troop is very grateful to beremembered.

“We owe a special debt of gratitude to Dave Pace and BrookhavenMonument,” he said. “They put this project together for us and it’sgreatly appreciated.”