COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (WOWT) -- Bagpipes and a drum corps led the casket of Pottawattamie County, Iowa Deputy Mark Burbridge down the aisle of saluting law enforcement officers in Council Bluffs Monday morning.
Deputy Burbridge was shot and killed on Monday, May 1 during an escape attempt at the Pottawattamie County Courthouse.
Deputy Burbridge's family followed the emotional entrance and beginning of the memorial service on Monday. Many of Deputy Burbridge's co-workers fought back tears as they passed the casket draped in an American flag as they were seated in the arena. Many offered a brief salute of their fallen comrade.
Pastor Michael Kalstrup of Fellowship Church in Council Bluffs, Iowa told the audience he was greatly heartened by the community's response to the tragic loss of Deputy Burbridge. He said he and his wife stopped by the memorial dedicated to Deputy Burbridge at the Pottawattamie County Sheriff's Office and he was inspired by the outpouring of love for the deputy and his family.
Reverend Michael Harvey of 1st Christian Church said, "We thank God for those who put themselves in harms way to protect the rest of us." He also noted that laws are an important aspect of human life.
He cited the first rule broken by Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden led to a continual battle between good and evil. That led to the Ten Commandments but did not stop human disobedience to the words of God. He said we have developed more and more ways to destroy each other and laws were necessary to prevent violent behavior and protect the innocent.
That led to the necessity of law enforcement to assist with following the laws of justice and peace.
Reverend Harvey said the administration of peace and justice is just part of what law enforcement personnel is responsible for. And to "protect the rights of victims and those who have broken our laws," he said. "You put yourselves at risk for us every day."
"Blessed are the peacemakers," he said "but thank you are the only words that seem appropriate."
Rev. Harvey then turned his words toward Deputy Burbridge. He told several personal stories about Deputy Burbridge and his antics. He said the deputy always treated people with respect, sometimes buying a prisoner a soft drink or stopping by to check on homeless people.
He asked those with stories about Deputy Burbridge to share them with the deputy's wife and children.
Rev. Harvey said the deputy was "somewhat of a gearhead" and that he loved cars and motorcycles whether they ran or not. He once bought a hovercraft saying "it'll be fun," and planned to turn a school bus into a camper. He didn't have one but wanted to renovate the old bus so he and his wife could go on camping trips. He said the deputy once blew the engine in a boat and had to return to the dock "at five miles an hour."
He also told a story about Burbridge and his partner were eating at a restaurant and when he asked for ketchup, his partner obliged. He couldn't understand what was different about his fries and thought they were a little too spicy. It tuned out his partner had substituted ketchup with hot sauce.
While at a concert, Burbridge noted that the opening act was a little below par. Rev. Harvey said Burbridge said so in a loud voice that could be heard several rows away. As it turns out, the group's parents were sitting right behind him.
"Mark loved kids his own and everybody else's, and they loved him back," Rev. Harvey said. "He was friendly to a fault, laughed at every opportunity, kidded around, but when the job came, it was serious. It was important he knew what he was doing."
Returning to the topic of peace officers, a sniffling Rev. Harvey told the audience to offer thanks to them for what they do even if they are writing you a ticket. The comment clearly choked up the reverend.
He then asked those in attendance to truly honor the life of Deputy Burbridge and others who work for justice and peace. He said in the midst of every sorrow that confronts us in this everyday life, look for the good and capitalize on those positive moments in life to make a lasting impact.
Burbridge's son, Kaleb, daughter, Karley and daughter-in-law, Kelsey Brant, shared some thoughts on their father. Kelsey said even though they were not related by blood, she was always treated as his own.
"He walked into my life when I was four and didn’t bat an eye. When figuring out what his role in my life would be, he stepped up to be the man I needed," she said.
"He ended up winning my heart over and being one of the biggest parts of my life," she said through tears. "He was our hero whether he was wearing that uniform or not," she said.
Son Kaleb said he "wanted to thank you for everything you gave me. You and I were going to do a lot together. You were going to give me my first beer. You were going to help me fix up my first car. You were going to take me on my first four wheeler trip. But I won't always remember you because of what we couldn’t do together. Instead, I want to thank you for everything you gave me. You gave me a sense of respect for everyone. You gave me experience in construction and being a mechanic, and occasionally being an electrician. You made sure I knew when to keep my mouth shut even though sometimes you had a tough time with that as well."
He also added a little levity to the situation.
"I wanted to thank you for taking me to Hooters for my 10th birthday," he said to laughs.
Karley said she remembers her father as dad and not a man in a uniform. She said she shared his love of the outdoors and that he was a great "protector."
"A lot of people tell me how much of a hero he was because of what he did for the community and I agree, he was a hero... my hero. But not because he risked his life for the safety of others, but because he protected me from the monsters under the bed to the ones that walked the streets Not only did he protect me, but he had the exhausting and expensive job of raising me to be a decent person. He taught me how to be caring independent and strong. To sum it all up, he was a great cop and an amazing dad. Thank you, I miss you. I love you, dad."
Pastor Kalstrup told the audience no matter how difficult the circumstances of life may be, even the loss of a loved one, the grace of God is sustainable.
The audience then stood for the final call. A woman's voice called over the police scanner for Burbridge's crusier.
"There is no answer," she said. "Deputy Burbridge served his last call on May 1st."
She then vowed that his co-workers and others in law enforcement would "watch over your family. Shall you rest in eternal peace."
Burbridge's casket was then wheeled out of the Mid-America Center with his family, friends, co-workers and community members following slowly behind.