OWENSBORO, Ky. (WEHT)- Saying a final goodbye is never easy, and waiting three years to say goodbye only makes it tougher. On Thursday, representatives from local law enforcement agencies joined local lawmakers and the Owensboro community to say thank you to former troopers, officers, and deputies who have passed away since 2019.

Though the memorial service is designed to be an annual event, dedicated to those who served and died over the previous twelve months, Thursday’s vigil honored those who died in 2019, 2020, and 2021 after the COVID-19 pandemic forced organizers to cancel the event in 2020 and 2021.

The memorial, held at First Christian Church in Owensboro, was an “opportunity” for pastor Chris Michael to say thank you and reflect on the service first responders provide.

For Fraternal Order of Police Lodge President George Ballard, it was also a moment to remember colleagues he considered family, saying that responders often forge tight bonds “in some of the worst tragedies you ever want to see.”

Thursday’s service came as western Kentucky agencies mourn the loss of Calloway County Chief Deputy Jody Cash, who was shot and killed in nearby Marshall County on Monday. Cash was a friend of Owensboro Police Chief Art Ealum, who says it’s been a surreal moment for him, coming just days after an Owensboro Police officer was shot in the line of duty. Ealum says officers are cognizant of the risks the job brings, and they know that sacrifice can and will be part of the job.