Each year on May 15, the Grover King VFW Post 1115 in Hillsville holds a Peace Officer’s Memorial Day ceremony to honor officers who have given the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty.
Monday’s ceremony hit much closer to home, however, as this year’s Peace Officer’s Memorial Day was dedicated in the honor of Carroll County Deputy Curtis A. Bartlett, who died in a fatal car accident in March while responding to a high-speed pursuit in another area of the county. Members of the VFW post and local law enforcement both spoke of a common theme – the need to live inspired the way Bartlett did.
VFW Post 1115 Commander Marty Rivera opened the ceremony by talking about the history of the Peace Officer’s Memorial Day, which was signed into law in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy. He said one of JFK’s most famous quotes perfectly describes the mindset of peace officers.
“Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country. I wonder and hope this statement was referring to all the peace officers who have given their lives for their cities, counties, states and country. I believe it was also included for those willing to put their blue life on the line for each and every one of us,” Rivera said. “In thinking about this, VFW Post 1115 is dedicating this year to the memory of our friend and fellow peace officer, Deputy Curtis Allen Bartlett. Curtis lived a life that was truly a life, as he would say, ‘Live inspired.’”
Rivera said Bartlett embodied President Kennedy’s famous quote of asking what you can do for your country. He did it by serving the U.S. Army proudly during the Iraq war and by serving several tours of duty as part of the emergency response team at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Bartlett’s dedication to service continued once he returned to the states, continuing to serve his home country as a deputy sheriff in Carroll County.
“Curtis constantly challenged others to live an inspired life and to live a life of service to your country. Curtis took those words spoken of himself and also President Kennedy, and not only asking what I can do for my country, but while I am doing this I will live a life inspired so others can help make this country and world a better place,” Rivera said. “Let’s not forget Curtis for his legacy and inspiration he left behind, but to follow in his direction.”
Following Rivera’s remarks, a moment of silence was held for Bartlett and other Carroll County officers killed in the line of duty. Those remembered Monday in addition to Bartlett were Officer Scott Allen Hylton, a Christiansburg police officer killed in the line of duty in 2003. Hylton served 13 years with law enforcement in Hillsville. Also remembered were Sheriff Lewis Webb, killed March 14, 1912 in the Carroll County Courthouse Tragedy, and Deputy Emery Mabry, killed April 22, 1974 during a traffic stop in Laurel Fork.
Brandon Edwards, an investigator with the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office, was close friends with Bartlett. Sheriff J.B. Gardner asked Edwards to share a few words about Bartlett for the ceremony.
“On March 9, 2017, everyone sitting in this room and multiple other individuals, their lives changed forever. It was a loss for the family, a loss for our office, law enforcement family and the community,” Edwards said. “But knowing Curtis, he loved what he did and wouldn’t have had it any other way. And now that I have had some time to reflect on it, not everyone is a leader, but Curtis was. Everyone always said, ‘How could he convince you to do what he convinced you to do?’ It goes back to good coaches and good leaders, you want to do things to make them proud of you. You want to excel to make them proud of what you have done. He always pushed you to do your best whether it was work, workouts or life in general. But he always led by example.”
To expound on his point, Edwards told a story of the time he and Bartlett and Bartlett’s brother, Caleb, where hanging a zip line. All it was tied off with was a toe strap, yet Curtis rode it.
“Rather than putting a cable tie on it to close it and stop, he rode it because he said, ‘I trust you. I know you and Caleb can grab a strap and keep me up off the ground,’” Edwards said. “He was a major inspiration to a lot of people and changed a lot of people’s lives. In closing, to describe Curtis’s impact was much like his tattoos…he left a mark on everyone’s life he met and it will always be there until we leave this earth and meet him again.”
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN