One local law enforcement officer is helping families whose loved ones have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

Clinton County Sheriff’s Office Capt. A.J. Carrel has been a member of the Missouri Law Enforcement Funeral Assistance Team for two years.

The team works with law enforcement departments and families upon the death of an officer. The group coordinates resources to directly support the agency and family such as for chaplain services, mental health support and assistance in obtaining financial support available to the family.

“Being a part of the funeral team, I’ve gotten really close to their families. We are there every day for them, every day whenever they need us,” Carrel said.

This year, Carrel escorted the Cosper and Michael families during National Law Enforcement Week when he traveled to the national remembrance event in Washington, D.C.

In April 2017, Barry Sheriff’s County Deputy Carl Cosper Jr. was responding to a domestic disturbance when he was killed in a car accident. Four months later, Clinton Police Officer Gary Michael, 37, was shot and killed during a traffic stop.

“We took them wherever they wanted to go in D.C., Carrel said. “We took part in a candlelit vigil that takes place every year as well as the memorial.”

In 1962, President John F. Kennedy proclaimed May 15 as National Peace Officers Memorial Day and the calendar week in which May 15 falls as National Police Week.

Carrel said law enforcement officers from around the world converge in Washington D.C. to participate in a number of planned events which honor those who have lost their lives in the line of service. Agencies from across the world joined, whether they had lost an officer or not.

Carrel said as an officer, he felt every possible emotion during his trip to Washington D.C.

“We were mad about why we were out there, why we were seeing our brothers’ and sisters’ names on the wall,” he said. “You see random citizens hugging police officers, the respect while we were out there was phenomenal.”

The Missouri funeral assistance team and the families visited Jefferson City the weekend before going to Washington, D.C.

There was a candlelight vigil at the Carnahan Memorial Garden on May 4, with a memorial following the next morning.

“Prayers are read out loud and family members have the opportunity to come out and speak. Obviously, everyone is in a different stage of their grieving,” Carrel said.

Carrel joined the assistance team when he witnessed other officers helping out his own family.

Carrel’s current sheriff, Larry Fish, also is a part of the funeral assistance team. Fish helped Carrel’s stepdaughter when she lost her father in the line of duty. Fish continues to assist the family today.

“I really appreciate what they did for her, my family and her family,” Carrel said.

When the national week comes to an end, Carell and the funeral assistance team continue to support the families every day.

“The family is not forgotten,” Carrel said. “They are taken care of.”

By Kristen Carver | News Press Now