“I believe there are angels among us,
Sent to us from Heaven up above.
They come to you and me, in our darkest hours.
To show us how to live, to teach us how to give ,
To guide us with the light of love.”
~Becky Hobbs and Don Goodman, “Angels Among Us”.
Copywright 1993, Sony/ATV Music Publishing
Sometimes the worst situations can bring out the best in people. This proved to be true in Niceville, Florida. The community lived up to its name as they united to celebrate the life of slain Okaloosa County Deputy Bill Myers. The community suffered a devastating loss on September 22, when Myers was brutally murdered while serving a domestic violence
As soon as the tragic news was made public, the community sprang into action. Private citizens brought homemade comfort foods and fresh-baked goodies to the precinct offices. Chick Fil A of Niceville invited all police officers on duty that day to dine at their establishment for free. The management also announced via media and social networks they would be “feeding any and hopefully every police officer that came into town for Myers’ funeral for free”. They encouraged everyone to come out, to shake each officer’s hand and to thank them for their service.
The turnout was amazing. In spite of a torrential downpour, thousands came to celebrate Deputy Myers’ life. Elementary school students drew pictures and wrote letters of appreciation, which are prominently displayed within the Chick Fil A restaurant. Navarre High School dance and pep squads and individual citizens stood along the procession route. Many held American flags and handmade signs with messages of support for Deputy Myers and all law enforcement. Military members from Eglin Air Force Base stood at attention and saluted. Fire departments hung massive flags from ladder trucks
located near the college and the Brooks Bridge on Okaloosa Island.
Chuck Turner, Vice President of Development at Chick Fil A, emphasized that there was no motive other than to show their appreciation for all law enforcement. The Atlanta-based company promotes faith, families, and community, and often sponsors special events. This is just one more way to bring people together. Truett Cathy, founder of Chick Fil A, said, “Nearly every moment of every day we have the opportunity to give something to someone else ~ our time, our love, our resources. I have always found more joy in giving when I did not expect anything in return.’ This philosophy is Chick Fil A’s only motive for reaching out to the law enforcement community. The corporation understands that it is sometimes considered “unethical” for police to accept such “gratuities”, but they wanted a tangible way to show police how much they are valued and appreciated.
“Our officers do so much for our community, that we want to give in
the same measure that we have been given,’ Turner said. “We’re aware that it has been a difficult year for our officers, and we want them to know how much they are always appreciated. They serve their communities with warmth and grace; now it’s our turn to serve them.”
In addition, Chick Fil A offered free meals to all law enforcement officers throughout the rest of the week. (Normally, the corporation offers meals to First Responders at half price.)
It is a known fact that law enforcement officers often go above and beyond the call of duty, they do it because of a sincere desire to serve rather than out of an expectation of something in return. While First Responders are often described as ‘Angels Among Us”, this time the roles were reversed. The people of Niceville were angels to the law enforcement community, who are often unfairly criticized and rarely appreciated.
That made the outpouring of love and support especially meaningful.
“It’s heartwarming to see so many people pay their respects,” said Major Greg Gaddis.
“It’s just amazing. The community has been supportive throughout. When tragedy hit, they came together like Super Glue.”
“We are so grateful for the way the community has come together in this time of need,” Sheriff Larry Ashley said in a press release. “It’s the community’s support that will get the Myers family and this agency through this dark time. We may be sad right now, but we’ll continue to do our job and the community can count on these men and women to
keep them safe.”
Myers is the fourth Okaloosa County deputy killed in the line of duty in the past eight years. Myers was a veteran of the United States Air Force. He had officially retired in 2013, but he returned to work part time, because of his love of people and commitment to duty. After over 25 years of service, Myers had become somewhat of a “fixture” among the community. With his generous, caring, compassionate nature, he touched numerous lives throughout his long career. Though he was sometimes stern in the performance of his duties, people always knew that he cared for them.
“Deputy Myers served this community with distinction,” Sheriff Ashley said. “He was loved, admired, and respected. He was known for his quick wit and laughter. He had the ability to make those around him smile.”
Myers is survived by his wife, three sons, seven grandchildren, and his mother and father. The Myers family has expressed their profound gratitude for the prayers, food, and support. They have requested that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Make A Wish Foundation.
“My father really loved his job,” Myers’ son posted on social media. “Helping others was an integral part of his being. I love my dad and miss him. The world is a much darker place without him.”
Deputy Bill Myers: Gone, but never forgotten.
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