A convoy of Harley Davidson motorcycle riders and fifth-wheel trucks entered Ludowici July 13, as people lined the roadways welcoming them to the community. The trucks were adorned with hundreds of photos – all portraits of fallen law enforcement officers who were killed in the line of duty in 2020. The motorcycles and trucks made their way into the parking lot of the Long County Board of Education where the widow of Long County Deputy Sheldon Whiteman, killed in January 2020, and her sons were greeted by ride organizer Jargut Shah.
“It is such a warm feeling. You feel the light of the Lord…this is so meaningful to us in so many ways,” said widow Alisa-Ann Whiteman adding she knows the community and others are always praying for her family.
Whiteman climbed a step-ladder they provided and softly passed her hands over the photo of her late husband. Her children took turns caressing the photo and telling their father how much they love and miss him. Later she and her sons signed a large memorial poster adorned with her late husband’s photos and badge number. The family wore T-shirts with Whiteman’s picture on the front and his end of watch memorial on the back.
Whiteman was killed during a high-speed pursuit Jan. 23, 2020 when his patrol car went off the road, into the woods and struck a tree.
End of Watch-Ride to Remember organizer Jargut Shah took a few minutes and addressed the crowd.
“We ride around this beautiful country that we call the U.S.A. and we honor all officers that have died in the line of duty,” Shah said noting that this ride was for those killed in 2020. “This year we are honoring 339 beautiful men and women that died. We are going to 194 different police departments, 46 states and covering 22,500 miles. We ride for them.”
Long County Sherriff Craig Nobles said watching the convoy enter the community reminded him of the losses he has experienced in recent years.
“You remember the loss of Deputy Whiteman,” he said. “And I also remember the day we lost Chief (Frank) McClelland and also U.S. Marshal Pat Carothers. Each time I turn on the news and see a loss in a line of duty death anywhere in the country it brings back the memory of the deaths of those I’ve worked with.
Frank McClelland Jr. was killed in the line of duty Sept. 15, 2018. He was off-duty but responded to a call of a suspect attempting to elude police via a high-speed chase. He lost his life when he was struck by the vehicle.
Carothers was killed in Long County in November 2016 when he tried to serve a warrant for fugitive Dontrell Montese Carter’s arrest. Carother’s team was entering a single-wide trailer where they’d found Carter hiding when Carother was shot twice.
Nobles called the losses senseless and attributed them to the wrongful actions of others. Nobles said there has been 164 line of duty deaths in the country this year and added more needs to be done to combat illegal drug activities or things will get worse before they get better.
“It’s emotional,” he said of the ceremony. “But we have a job to do, to serve and protect and we are going to keep doing that.”
Shah said they were proud to be able to honor these heroes but also reminded the audience that there are also other true hero’s heroes, the surviving families across the nation. He thanked the Long County Sheriff’s Office and told those in attendance to honor and respect their law enforcement officers.
“I can feel the love,” Alisa-Ann Whiteman said. “I can feel their emotions…you see tears, you see caring eyes and caring body language. It’s just true and genuine love from each and every one of them.”