Soldier, Marine and Baton Rouge police officer laid to rest at VA national cemetery


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It was another steamy morning in the south when Louisiana National Cemetery Director Maurice Roan and his seven-member crew set out to prepare for four services scheduled July 22.

“It’s going to be a hot one,” Roan said as he directed a media satellite truck to a location that was a respectful distance from the tent set up to house the final service of the day, more than four hours before it was scheduled to start.

Under a cloudless sky, the first three services were seamless and the team moved quickly and efficiently.

Louisiana National Cemetery service“We have a strong crew here. Most people don’t see the work we do, but we have a good team ready to support the friends and families who come here,” said Roan.

True to form, they were prepared as the final motorcade arrived just 20 minutes after the previous outgoing services. With it came more than 1,000 supporters of fallen Baton Rouge Police Officer Matthew Gerald, who served in both the Army and the Marine Corps.

They came in droves and converged onto the cemetery grounds, creating a human barrier around the services. Made up of law enforcement officers, soldiers, Marines, sailors, Patriot Guard members, friends, family and those who wanted to support the fallen officer. They quietly stood by to honor Gerald.

“I heard a law enforcement officer tell the family that officers from all 50 states and Canada were represented here today,” said Roan.

A rifle vollet was presented by a joint Louisiana State Police and Baton Rouge City Police Honor Guard. Fourteen media outlets from across the country covered the services.

“I have mixed feelings,” said one reporter. “I have to cover the story, to let the country see this, but I’m still taking pictures at a funeral.”

Throughout the day, many of the reporters reflected the same sentiments, careful not to step too close or move too quickly so as not to disturb or disrespect the family and friends, several taking momentary breaks to overcome their own emotions during the service.

Louisiana National Cemetery serviceThe Honor Flag arrived as well. “Since September 2001, the United States Honor Flag has paid tribute to those who have lost their life in the line of duty protecting our lives, our homes, and our country and also those who currently serve our communities and our nation,” reads the United States Honor Flag’s Facebook page. It was flown in to be present for the service.

“It’s been to Ground Zero and even to outer space,” said one Colorado law enforcement officer, who appeared honored to be a part of the team presenting it.

Just before the conclusion of the short burial service, as the family members each dropped single roses onto the casket to say their final goodbyes, four law enforcement helicopters flew overhead, airing a single police siren.

“It was a nice event,” Roan said modestly just before giving his team a few final instructions once the grounds were empty again.

Fifty flower stands had arrived early that day for Gerald and usually one or two are left at the head of the gravesite for the remainder of the day.

“Which one should we keep, sir?” asked one of the crew members.

“Let’s keep them all,” Roan replied. “The family will come back on their own and they’ll want to see these. Let’s leave them for the whole weekend.”


About the author:  Amanda Jones is the chief of community and public relations at VA’s Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System.

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Comments

  1. ray bryant    

    May God bless and protect all who have served RIP

  2. Kimberly Arnold    

    As a Military representative, and Ex-Miss Navy Pensacola, and a Honorably discharged /Veteran, I want you to know my heart and all who have served, we know you as family,and we truly,Thank you for your families service. We love you. As far as being mistreated as a Veteran I being directly effected I have experienced several occasions of abuse through our Veterans Administration, and I am grateful you have been taken care of.
    God Bless you all, Thank you for your husbands service, and God Bless America, keep us all in our heavenly Father’s loving and Protective ARMS.

  3. Peter Garland    

    Thank you, Amanda. Rest in Peace. I like to think of Officer Matthew Gerald in Heaven now, perhaps making the acquaintance of some friends of mine. God bless him and you for a sensitive article.

    Peter Garland M. A.
    Oakland, CA

  4. Timothy M. Forbes    

    Thank the ground crew and all who attended to help honor this hero.

    semper fidelis, a fellow Marine

  5. Julie Ann Peiler    

    God, it’s awful that our country has become an insane asylum.
    It seems we’ve lost our consciences.
    I thank God that my brother and I were raised to respect authority.
    I deeply send our apologies to this fallen officer and his family from both my husband and I, who really care.

  6. Thomas Kielar    

    RIP and prayers and Love to all family members.

  7. Grace Baber    

    “Let’s keep them all,” Roan replied. “The family will come back on their own and they’ll want to see these. Let’s leave them for the whole weekend.”

    What noble way to honor a Gold Star family or the equivalent in law enforcement.
    Thank you Mr. Roan. Well done.

  8. Stephanie Renee Wiggins    

    Even though I was not there, I remember his story and it brought tears streaming down my face. I’m so sorry this happened. I rejoice in the fact that he is with God.

  9. Lawrence J. Rewis    

    Very respectfully done. Thank you, and may God comfort the family and friends of Matthew Gerald.
    Larry Rewis (23yr retired Army Veteran)

Comments are closed.