Family, friends and law enforcement officials gathered quietly and solemnly together Monday afternoon to celebrate the service and sacrifice Virginia Tech Police Department officer Deriek W. Crouse gave to the Tech community.
“You cannot have service without sacrifice,” said Tech Police Chief Wendell Flichum during his speech. The appreciation of law enforcement officers’ sacrifices and service was a main theme during Monday’s funeral ceremony in Cassell Coliseum.
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell spoke during Monday’s ceremony along with Flinchum, Tech Police Sgt. Tom Gallemore and U.S. Army Sgt. Paul Sweeney. Rev. Tommy McDearis, who is the chaplain for the Tech Police and Blacksburg Police, presided over the ceremony.
Special guests also included Congressman Morgan Griffith, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the state Secretary of Education Laura Fornash and the state Secretary of Public Safety Marla Graff Decker.
The atmosphere inside Cassell Coliseum was solemn and quiet Monday afternoon. As everyone stood waiting for the special guests and family members to enter, there was silence except for bagpipe and drum music that started the ceremony.
Although there had been rumors that members of the Westboro Baptist Church would show up to protest, the funeral ceremony was calm and had no signs of protests on Washington Street or Spring Road. There were no disturbances to guests entering the Coliseum.
Hundreds of law enforcement officials attended. There was large representation from chapters of Blacksburg, Christiansburg, Roanoke City, and other local areas. But some came from as far away as Duke University, Charleston, West Va., Delaware, New York State University and High Point University, and other locations.
Cadets from Virginia Military Institute in Lexington also attended and sat with the Corps of Cadets members from Tech. The VMI cadets had made plans to shield funeral attendees from Westboro Baptist Church members, but those members did not make an appearance.
Inside Cassell Coliseum, one side was completely full of law enforcement officials from the floor to the ceiling. On the opposite side of the arena, civilians filled the space up to about three-quarters of the way to the ceiling.
The ceremony began with bagpipe and drum music, which is a traditional feature of many police funerals.
McDearis then welcomed the crowd and opened with a prayer.
“None of us wanted to be here,” he said.
After McDearis’s welcome, he read Psalm 23, which is the “The Lord is my shepherd” passage. He then introduced McDonnell.
McDonnell addressed Crouse’s family and described Crouse as having had “an incredible life well-lived.”
He said he decided to attend Crouse’s funeral services because “from the moment we hard the news, our hearts were gripped by sadness.”
McDonnell spoke about the “love and resilience and courage in the Virginia Tech community” and commended community members for coming together to celebrate Crouse’s life.
“You prayed, got through your exams, started a scholarship fund, and did all the great things Hokies do,” he said.
McDonnell talked about how he knew Crouse was “thrilled at having five young boys to raise” and how he knew Crouse loved motorcycles, Metallica concerts and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“When it wasn’t protecting Tech, he was loving life,” McDonnell said.
“Deriek’s bravery will not go forgotten in Richmond,” he said.
McDonnell referenced a Bible quote that states that the greatest love is to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. McDonnell then read a statement he said was written by Crouse’s brother.
The statement said Crouse served as an Army non-commissioned officer in the Middle East and was also very good at baseball when he was in high school.
“You couldn’t not love him,” McDonnell read.
“Heroes are remembered, but legends never die,” McDonnell read.
Flinchum then spoke about service and sacrifice.
“Regardless of whether it’s appreciated, we continue to serve,” he said. “You cannot have service without sacrifice.”
Flinchum spoke of the sacrifices that law enforcement officers make daily by missing holiday gatherings, their children’s school plays or sporting events, and anniversaries.
“Our families make sacrifices along with us,” he said.
He spoke of how giving up your life is the ultimate sacrifice.
“Deriek and his family have made the ultimate sacrifice,” Flinchum said.