Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Marion Pellicano Ambrose
The rituals and traditions of a law enforcement officer’s funeral are both moving and meaningful. They provide closure and comfort to both the family and the law enforcement community. The proceedings usually begin with the gathering of law enforcement officers from neighboring agencies. Today, for Deputy Barbara Pill’s funeral, thousands of police, deputies, troopers, firefighters and other sworn personnel gathered and stood in formation for almost 2 hours in preparation for the service.

It took over half an hour for all these men and women to file into Calvary Church and fill the 5,000 seats to overflowing. The service usually follows the religious customs of the family. In this case, Pastors from Deputy Pill’s Church in Sebastian, and the Pastor of Calvary Church in Melbourne spoke. Chief Jack Parker of the Brevard County Sheriff’s Department spoke beautifully about Barbara’s dedication, service and spirit. The most touching moment was when her son, also a law enforcement officer, spoke about his mother. At police funerals, other family members, fellow officers or friends may speak if it is the wish of the family. At Barbara Pill’s funeral, several Brad Paisley songs were played while a video of her with friends, family, and at work was shown. The musical group for the church also performed “I Can Only Imagine”. All during these happenings, officers in dress uniform stood guard at both sides of the coffin and switched details every 15 minutes or so. Each change of detail was performed to perfection with respect and dignity.

After the service ended in prayer, everyone was dismissed to re form outside. At that time, the bagpipes and drums played, which has been a police and fire department tradition since the time when Irish immigrants brought their traditions with them upon immigrating to America.  Another tradition is the three –volley rifle salute and the playing of Taps, which originated during the American Civil War.

A flying formation of Sheriff’s Department copters passed over in the missing man formation to honor Deputy Pill.

The most difficult tradition for me was the official retiring of the officer’s squad number. A dispatcher is heard over the radio trying to get hold of the officer twice. When he or she does not answer, the dispatcher announces that that officer is 10-7, out of service. This is the officer’s “Last Call”.

The American flag that was draped over the coffin is carefully folded and presented to the deceased's next of kin. The traditional triangular fold represents the triangle hat that was worn by Revolutionary War soldiers.

The funeral procession to the cemetery may involve hundreds of police vehicles, as did Deputy Pill’s. Motorcycles, police cars, possibly mounted police and other vehicles escort the body of the officer to his or her final resting place.

 It’s an extremely difficult ordeal for both the family of the deceased and the law enforcement community, but these traditions are important. They show the living that we honor our heroes and that their sacrifice was not and will never be forgotten. It helps the family to see the close, loving family ties that exist between those who wear the shield, for it is a true brotherhood that outsiders may never fully comprehend. Barbara Pill’s family is truly a law enforcement family, and they knew the dangers and risks that Barbara took each day. Having the amazing show of love, support and brotherhood that took place at Calvary Chapel today, will help them deal with their pain, their loss and the continued sacrifices they will endure as law enforcement officers.

It was a sad, moving, inspiring, day today. May we never have the need for another like it!

"I Can Only Imagine"


  1. So sad! RIP Deputy Pill.

  2. A well written description of the honor and respect given to Officer Pill. Your words are a tribute to her service, Marion.

    I'm sad that she lost her life.

  3. You have beautifully shared this heart wrenching experience reminding us all to value and honor our heroes. I Know this touches your heart in ways that most will never understand - Your empathy and compassion never cease to amaze me. Thank you for sharing your beautiful spirit, inspiration and talents with all of us!