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Oak Creek man holds flag high for fallen officers

Posted at 7:00 PM, Jun 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-26 20:00:49-04

As a Racine Officer is laid to rest, this day is unfortunately nothing new to many in law enforcement.

"Very difficult in the state," Officer Erik Smith said. "Especially with Officer Her last week. It seems when it rains, it pours. We can never just catch a break and recoup ourselves and relax. It's just one after another after another."

Smith is part of the Milwaukee Police Honor Guard. Wednesday, he was a part of the rifle group giving the gun salute for Officer Hetland.

"It's an honor for all of us to be here," Smith said. "Give him the honor he deserves at the funeral so his family can remember and make sure he gets the sending off he earned."

Smith is an 18-year Marine Corps veteran and also works for the Milwaukee Police. It's been an especially tough year with Officers Charles Irvine Junior, Michael Michalski, Matthew Rittner and Kou Her being killed.

"You put on your uniform every day and go to work and you never think, today is my day," Smith said. "You just think about going home."

While these tragedies are marked by the day of their death, Smith says the best way to honor fallen officers is remembering the days and years before they died.

"Remember how we lived," Smith said. "If you don't know how we lived, listen to people who do, talk about how he lived. How he spent his life is the important part. [Hetland] was a big fisherman. I remembered he loved and enjoyed fishing. A day like today, I guarantee he would have been on the pier or his boat fishing."

As hundreds poured into the chapel on Carthage College's campus to pay their respects and honor Officer Hetland, one man stood outside with an American flag in hand.

It's something he's done 12 times in the last year.

"I know a lot of people line the procession route," Timothy Nelson of Oak Creek said. "I just try to stay out of the way and hold my flag and show my respect."

Nelson has stood outside of every law enforcement, firefighter or first responder death in the region since Officer Charles Irvine Jr. was killed last June. He never served in law enforcement but strongly supports the work they do.

"I just hope it means something to the families," Nelson said. "To all first responders to see someone out there, a lot of people, they show their support the way they do and this is how I do mine."

Nelson and Smith will unfortunately be at it again in the upcoming days for Officer Kou Her's funeral set for this weekend.