Community honors fallen deputy

- On Tuesday morning, Tampa Police Officer Chet Holden will trade his patrol uniform for his dress uniform.

"Us going down there shows the family that they are not alone," said Holden. "That the brotherhood is there."

He is one of three TPD officers headed to highlands as part of the department's honor guard. 

They will be joined by law enforcement from around the state, guarding the procession of William Gentry. 

He has been honored by memorials at the Highlands sheriff's headquarters, by vigils in Sebring, and even in Washington DC at the memorial to fallen law enforcement.

"It is sad but it is also very humbling," said Holden. "It is an honor to be able to go down there and support their families and the other deputies and the officers that are there."

The Highlands Sheriff's Office is relatively small, with 225 deputies, as opposed to over a thousand in Hillsborough and 650 in Polk. 

They are sending their own honor guard, plus, their deputies will be patrolling Highlands during the funeral so all Highlands deputies can attend. 

"It is a horrible event no matter the size of your agency," said Polk Co. Sheriff Grady Judd. "It becomes more personal when the agency is small enough where you know each and every person."

In the eight years Holden has been on the honor guard, he believes he's been to more than thirty processions.

"You have a lot of time to think on the way home, that could have been you and is the next call going to be you? It makes you not worry about yourself but it puts things in perspective."

Funeral services will begin at 11 a.m., but the processional will start at 9:30 a.m. at the Lakeshore Mall and travel south on U.S. 27 to the Highlands News-Sun Center.

Because their deputies will be attending the funeral, the Highlands Sheriff's Office asked civilians to hold back on non-essential calls.

From Highlands Co. Sheriff's Office:

UPDATE ON DEPUTY GENTRY:  Funeral services are 11 a.m. Tuesday, May 15 at the Highlands News-Sun Center, 781 Magnolia Ave., Sebring FL 33870. 

Public parking will be on the north side of the center (under the water tower). Enter via Commerce Avenue or Magnolia Avenue. Overflow public parking will be at the Highlands County Multi-Sports Complex, 216 Sheriff's Tower Rd., Sebring. Shuttles will be provided. 

The funeral processional will begin at the Lakeshore Mall at approximately 9:30 a.m. It will travel south on U.S. 27 to Highlands Avenue at Highlands Regional Medical Center, then turn onto Highlands Avenue/Sebring Parkway and proceed to the Highlands News-Sun Center. The public is welcome to line the route, but please be aware of the traffic that will result from US 27 and the roads around the venue being shut down.

The services will be broadcast live on our Facebook page. 


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