For Sherri Longway, the new memorial outside the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office in Ybor City will become a place where her daughter and nephews can go to learn about their grandfather.
"For them to see Grandpa there and know what a difference he made in the community means a lot," said Longway, daughter of Deputy Mark Longway, who died in an accident in 2010 on his way home from work.
Longway and her family, including her mother, Laura Longway, were among the families gathered outside the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office for the annual Memorial Service and dedication of the new Law Enforcement Memorial on Thursday night.
The granite and glass memorial bears the names of the department's fallen deputies. Their names were read aloud as family members and officers stepped forward to remove covers from the engraved names.
The memorial sits on a new park space with benches in front of the Malcolm E. Beard Sheriff's Operations Center in Ybor City. The project took about two years to complete, from conception to construction. The space next to the park will hold a new war memorial.
Deputy Benjamin Kenney hopes to see the memorials, with their proximity to a trolley stop, Centennial Park and other historic buildings, become a destination in the community. The addition of the memorial made the annual ceremony that much more meaningful, he said.
"We've always had the memorial service to the fallen officers, and that's important," he said. "This is a labor of love for the sheriff and a very personal monument for the department and the people who serve for the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office."
Many in the community gave their time and talents to complete the project, he said.
"It's a testament to the people in the community who really believe in us," Kenney said.
Flags were raised on the new flag poles behind the memorial Thursday night. WTVT-Fox 13 News anchor John Wilson welcomed families and read the names of the officers. A bell sounded with each name.
"In the deepest part of our hearts we will always be with you here and wherever you are," Wilson said, addressing the fallen officers' families. He turned to the officers present. "May the spirit of each one of these fallen heroes ride with you all."
Serving his country and then his county was Mark Longway's dream, Sherri Longway said, as her daughter and nephews looked at their grandfather's name.
"All he wanted to do was help people," she said. "Anything he could do to give back to the community, he did it."
Keeley Sheehan can be reached at [email protected]