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Fallen Brookhaven officers honored with wooden flag donation

Artist Jason Saulpaw slapped red paint on young Avery Moak’s hand then her momma helped her press it against the cool yellow pine.

Her tiny handprint joined a half dozen others belonging to the families of Cpl. Zach Moak and officer James Kevin White Sunday. The prints were placed on the back of a memorial flag Saulpaw created to honor the fallen officers.

Avery’s uncle, 31-year-old Moak, was fatally wounded Sept. 29 while attempting to pull White, 35, to safety during an ambush. Both men died that day and a suspect has been charged with capital murder in their deaths.

A half-dozen members of the Punishers Motorcycle Club — comprised of law enforcement officers, military veterans and fire fighters — escorted the flag to Brookhaven. One of the members travelled from Tennessee to be part of the procession.

“I love knowing that he hasn’t been forgotten,” Laurie White said about her son James, who was known at home as Kevin. “He’s still being honored. I know it’s eventually going to stop but I know that in people’s hearts in Lincoln County, Cpl. Zach and Kevin will always be honored.”

She marveled at the flag — 4 feet wide and 31 inches tall — with stripes of black and white. One blue stripe stretches across the width. A pair of guardian angel wings in black and blue rest over a canton of black with white stars.

The men’s names and badge numbers painted in blue — B33 for White and B32 for Moak — sit above the date no one with a painted palm will forget: EOW 9-29-18.

The Laurel woodworker donated the flag to the Brookhaven Police Department Sunday.

“The time and effort, there’s no way to thank him enough for what he’s done,” White said.

Saulpaw knew officer White, a former National Guardsman who was awarded a Purple Heart during his service in Iraq as an 18-year-old, from a patriot group they both joined. He was shocked when he discovered the man he knew was one of the two Brookhaven officers murdered.

But even if he hadn’t known White, he would have created the memorial flag for the department because he believes there is a lack of respect for law enforcement nationwide.

“This is my way of pushing back to show that there are people in the community who aren’t going to tolerate it. They’re going to stand behind these guys,” he said.

The flag took him about a week and a half to create. Usually when a flag is completed, he puts his own red handprint on the back to signify the sacrifice an officer made, either through injury or with their life.

He didn’t do that with this piece.

He brought the red paint and one-by-one, family members and police officers left their handprints on the back.

“I didn’t feel right about putting it on this one,” he said. “I wanted the family members to do it because ultimately they sacrificed, too. They lost their sons, husbands, fiancés’, fathers. It seemed right to have them put their handprints on the back of it.”

Vicki Moak met the procession at Super Jack Truck Stop on Hwy. 84 East and rode the rest of the way in to the police department. Her brother rode Cpl. Moak’s motorcycle. Police officers drove White’s and Moak’s patrol cars in the procession which also included two ambulances and Saulpaw’s red Jeep that carried the wooden flag. About a half-dozn Punishers rode behind Moak’s bike.

“It warms my heart to know the honor he’s given and the respect that he’s given,” Vicki Moak said. “It can hurt sometimes, but stuff like this really makes me feel close to him. It’s overwhelming how much support we’ve gotten.”

She said events that focus on White and Moak are difficult to attend but are helping with the healing process.

“God makes us take those steps to overcome,” she said.

Moak said her son would want her to take those steps, too.

“He’d tell me, ‘You get up and carry on,’” she said. “That just makes me get up and move. I couldn’t stay home and just be overcome with grief.”