ALBANY, Ga. -- Law enforcement officers, family and friends of a slain Dougherty County Police officer gathered to unveil the name of Lt. Cliff Rouse on a moving memorial to law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty.
The names of more than 600 Georgia officers, deputies, agents and state troopers cover the sides of the Georgia Law Enforcement Moving Memorial -- a specially designed trailer that is towed throughout the state as a reminder of the sacrifices made by those who work in public safety.
Friday morning, Jackie Rouse, the mother of Cliff Rouse -- the DCP officer who was shot and killed while responding to a report of an armed robbery at a convenience store on Sylvester Road Dec. 23 -- peeled away a strip of thin, blue painter's tape on the side of the trailer revealing her son's name, which is now forever inscribed alongside a list of fallen heroes.
Next, starting a new row of names, is another piece of blue tape, with "Georgia State Patrol" written in permanent marker on top. Beneath it, the name of Trooper First Class Chad LeCroy who was shot and killed in Atlanta just five days after Rouse.
The state's latest police fatality, Athens police officer Elmer "Buddy" Christian, who was buried this week after being shot and killed on March 22, is so fresh that Detective Eddie Christian -- the Kennesaw police officer who drives the memorial around the state -- hasn't had time to put it on the memorial.
According to the nonprofit organization that runs the Officer Down Memorial web page, 51 officers have died in the line of duty across the country since January.
Florida leads the nation in line-of-duty-deaths with 10 so far this year. Georgia has two.
DCP Chief Don Cheek said Friday that Rouse's death shook the law enforcement family but, that he believes if Rouse were able to say so, that he would say that the sacrifice he laid down that night in a East Dougherty County mobile home park was worth it to keep the people of Albany and Dougherty County safe.
"People say, 'well, is it worth it?' Well, the sacrifices that Cliff made and that these other officers have made, yeah its worth it," Cheek said. "And I guarantee you, talking to Cliff, when we talk to him again -- and we all will -- he'll tell you, 'yea it was worth it' because that's who we are and that's what we do."
While Rouse's death in the line of duty was the first for the Dougherty County Police, it's not the first time that an officer in Dougherty County has died wearing the uniform.
Each year, Cheek and the heads of all of the area's law enforcement units from the Albany Police Department to the GSP to the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport Police and the police at Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, remember all officers who have died while in the service of their communities during National Law Enforcement Memorial Week.
But despite the fact that it had been years since a local officer died while on duty, Cheek said that Rouse's death had no less of a sting today than when those officers died in years passed.
"I hope it never happens again. I hope we don't have to go through it. I hope we don't have to suffer the pain that blood family and married family suffer, but also the family wearing green or blue or brown or gray or black or whatever the uniform color happens to be. We're all a brotherhood," Cheek said.