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Blue lights honor emergency response personnel

BONNE TERRE — The flags at the American Legion memorial just west of the U.S. 67 and Highway 47 interchange here will take on a different hue this week in recognition of emergency response personnel.

The U.S. and Missouri flags flown at the memorial will be illuminated with blue lights during the week-long observance recognizing law enforcement officers, firefighters and emergency medical personnel. Jackson-Thomure Post 83 of the American Legion chose to join other posts across the state in this special recognition urged by the Missouri Department, American Legion.

At a ceremony Saturday morning at the memorial, Post Commander Jerry Rokar said the observance honors the hundreds of fire, police and medical emergency personnel who lost their lives in the 9-11 attacks in New York and Washington. He stressed, however, that it also is intended to honor the local emergency response personnel who put their lives on the line every day to protect the safety of the people of St. Francois County.

Participating in the ceremony were Police Chief Fred Mallow of Bonne Terre, Assistant Chief Dave Driemeier of the Bonne Terre Fire Department, Sheriff Dan Bullock, Sgt. John Koch and Trooper Warren Robinson of the Missouri Highway Patrol, State Rep. Dan Ward, D-Bonne Terre, post member Ronald D. Bockenkamp, and Rokar.

Ward said it is encouraging to see that police officers and firefighters are being recognized and honored more by communities and individuals. Their role in the community and the nation has for too long been taken for granted.

“I am glad to hear parents tell their children to show the appropriate respect to these people and I hope they will continue to show that respect,” Ward said.

New U.S. and Missouri flags raised on the pole at the memorial were provided by the Missouri House of Representatives. Ward stressed that his participation in this program was not just as the local state representative, but also on behalf of the entire membership of the Missouri House.

Speaking to the emergency response personnel gathered, Bockenkamp said, “I hope you realize the citizens you serve do appreciate you. They appreciate your service and hold you in high regard.”

There has been only one law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty over in St. Francois County over the 20 years. Deputy Sheriff Steve Ziegler died in a traffic accident approximately two years ago.

The area has had two Highway Patrol troopers die in the line of duty. On Sept. 21, 1988, Trooper Robert J. Kolilis was fatally injured when struck by a vehicle near Irondale in Washington County. Trooper James Froemsdorf of Perryville was fatally shot during what started as a routine traffic stop along I-55 on March 2, 1985.

The death of still another Missouri trooper was felt here in 1969. Trooper Jesse R. Jenkins, a native of this area, died of a gunshot wound suffered while preventing the escape of a prisoner at Montgomery City. The prisoner had grabbed the gun of the sheriff in his office and exchanged shots with Jenkins. Both were killed. Jenkins was returned to Desloge for funeral services and burial.

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