FAREWELL TO A RETIRED FIRESTONE DEPUTY
by Duane Preimsberger
It was a small graveside ceremony, perhaps fifty family members and friends sat on gray folding chairs set upon the grassy hillside as a minister spoke of the love the deceased had for his wife, children, relatives, co-workers and friends. Following those comments, a cadre of uniformed Los Angeles County Sheriffs Deputies moved alongside the casket and with great dignity they removed and folded the American Flag that had covered the casket as it sat above the empty, hallowed grave. A longtime friend and former partner accepted the folded flag from the Sergeant who marked that moment with a slow salute that caused a few eyes to grow misty.
The partner knelt in front of the grieving widow and spoke of the years of service and sacrifices her husband had made on behalf of the citizens he had served. She accepted the flag and clutched it to her bosom as fresh tears fell upon the Emblem of Freedom she held. The partner stood and slowly rendered another salute to the widow and the flag and as he moved back to his seat, those who were close could see the misting of sorrow roll from his grieving eyes. For a few moments there was a solemn silence broken only by the trilling of birds that nested in nearby trees and the faraway hum of a busy Los Angeles Freeway.
The minister offered a prayer that spoke of eternal life in a better place. The casket was slowly lowered into the grave and those in attendance expressed their condolences to the family members and soon the group dissolved and went to their cars and back to their busy lives. After all were gone, the cemetery workers filled the grave and arranged the sod so that the gravesite no longer looked like an open wound in the earth.
A month later those who visited the grave site saw that it now bore a granite headstone; with the name of the deceased, the dates of his birth and passing and some chiseled words that spoke about his life as a good man. Except for a small insignia near the base of the stone the headstone was little different from dozens if not hundreds of others.
For those interested enough to look at the insignia, they saw a small diamond etched into the stone containing 3 letters, FPK and the number 1. For most viewers the insignia had no meaning. For others who had worked at Firestone Sheriff’s Station in South Central Los Angeles, the Departments first and busiest station, that insignia spoke volumes. It recalled moments of violence, death, terror, tragedy, and unimaginable occurrences as well as instances of camaraderie, caring, compassion, accomplishment, courage, humor and even love.
As the visitor looked upon the insignia, he recalled some of the moments of days gone by and a silent prayer came into his mind. He’d stopped to once more pay his respects at the gravesite of his friend and partner with whom he’d shared so much.
“God bless you partner, I hope the coffee is better in Heaven than it was in Willowbrook, maybe I’ll see you soon… ohhh and if I do, you’re buying, Amen!” He turned and took a few steps and then turned around and held up 4 fingers, “it’s Code Four, my friend, God’s got your back.”