Kitsap officers remember their own at memorial service

As the hustle and bustle of Kitsap County traffic zoomed back and forth on Highway 3, the harrowing tolls of a bell filled the otherwise quiet air at Miller-Woodlawn Memorial Park in Bremerton.

Though the sound carried over the hilly terrain toward the busy street, it is unlikely drivers heard any of those tolls, nor did they catch the bugled tune of taps or the guitar strums and lyrics of the national anthem.

All three play consistently in the hearts and minds of police officers, many of whom gathered May 15 from all parts of the county to remember those whom the sounds memorialize forever in a brief ceremony remembering the fallen among law enforcement.

“We are the ones who do the hard things, the difficult tasks that society demands of its protectors,” Port Orchard police chief Matt Brown said. “We do this because it is right and what must be done to maintain a civil society. There is purpose to what we do and meaning, but it has a cost.”

53 names were listed on memorial program—men and women who protected residents of their respective jurisdictions. The service honored those from the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office; Washington State Patrol; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; and the police departments of Port Orchard, Poulsbo and Bainbridge Island.

Eight names were read allowed, a red rose for each laid in a vase before the memorial stone where those names are etched. Those servants understood the ultimate dedication it takes to be an officer, Brown said.

“The badges we wear do not symbolize authority. Rather, they are a symbol of public faith and trust, a dedication to justice and the willingness to sacrifice one’s own life for the life of another,” he said.

One name has joined the others on the memorial headstone since the last service in 2019. South Kitsap High School graduate and Bainbridge Island police officer Kurtis Enget died suddenly in April 2020 after medical complications related to COVID-19. His memorial was pushed back a year due to the effects of the pandemic.

BI police chief Joe Clark called Enget “a hard man to forget,” even after meeting him just once before he was named chief. “It’s nice to be able to do this again for not just Kurt, but for the other officers who’ve paid that kind of price.”

The reading of the names and the playing of taps brought Bremerton police chief Tom Wolfe to say. “Too many funerals. Too many.”