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Chief Anderson's Remarks--FOP Memorial Service


Below is the text of Chief Anderson’s remarks delivered during today’s annual FOP Memorial Service at First Baptist Church downtown.

Earlier this week, I attended the funerals of two great Nashvillians and Tennesseans.  Mr. Cecil Branstetter and Senator Harlan Matthews.

Mr. Branstetter died at the age of 93 after a long and successful career in public service and the practice of law.  Mr. Branstetter has been often called the “father” of the Metropolitan Government.  During the creation and forming of the Metropolitan Government in the late 1950s and early 1960s, he was the glue that held things together as he gathered support from all the differing factions.

Mr. Branstetter went on to draft a major portion of the Metropolitan Charter and served on the Charter Commission for 40 years.

In 1951 Mr. Branstetter was elected to the Tennessee Legislature.  Among his accomplishments was his sponsorship of legislation allowing women to serve on juries.

Senator Harlan Matthews died at the age of 87.  Prior to his service in the United States Senate, he served as State Treasurer and as Deputy Governor to Ned McWherter.

Probably his most important contribution to Tennessee, however, was his ability and willingness to quietly work behind the scenes, bringing persons with differing opinions together on issues that greatly affected the people of Tennessee.

He was a friend and close advisor to countless government officials ranging from Governor Frank Clement in the 1950s, President Bill Clinton in the 1990s and Governor Phil Bredesen earlier this century.

In listening to the eulogies of both of these great men, it occurred to me that the consistent theme was how they both found it very important to give back to the communities in which they served and lived.  They both felt a duty to serve the people—all without recognition or fame.  Because of their dedication and service, Nashville and Tennessee are better places.

These gentlemen and statesmen are greatly responsible for the life we enjoy today.

I make brief mention of these great men because as I listened I could not help but draw a comparison with the men and women we are here today to honor.  The pictures of these men and women now on display are a reminder of the duty they felt.  They all died, in service to this community, at a much younger age.

If we were to look back over the everyday lives of each of these men and women, we would find countless individuals they assisted and served in the short years they were with us.

We would see countless times that they had a direct impact on someone’s life.  Even times they saved a citizen from death.  They served their community faithfully until the time they gave their lives in service to this city.

Certainly, the life of the most recent officer making this sacrifice in the line of duty could be compared to Mr. Branstetter and Senator Matthews.  Although only 25 years old, Officer Michael Petrina was on that same path to greatness.  A path dedicated to service and helping others.

In his autobiography, written during his first week at the Training Academy in May of 2013, Officer Petrina wrote:

“The strength I have gained because of my family support has helped me make my decision for a career in law enforcement. . . .  I will serve the city of Nashville, my country, and most importantly, make my family proud.”

These were not just words that he put on paper.  He lived those words.

Before he came to the Police Department, Officer Petrina had joined the National Guard.

He had also begun volunteering in the “Forever Young Senior Veteran Wish Organization.”  He accompanied a group of World War II veterans to the National Memorial in Washington in 2011.  The founder of that organization remembered the special care and attention he gave to the veterans he was serving.

After graduating from college, Officer Petrina joined the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department in May of 2013.  He immediately became the class motivator.  There are countless stories of how he encouraged, assisted, and, when necessary, pushed his classmates on. 

It was by vote of his classmates that he was selected to receive the Christy Dedman Spirit Award—an award presented for exhibiting exemplary spirit and motivation.  The trainee who all the others know they can rely on.

Officer Christy Dedman lost her life on July 19, 2004, when struck by a tractor trailer truck as she was assisting a motorist on Interstate 40.

Some of the things Officer Petrina’s classmates have said about him include the following:

  • He would not let you quit.  You could not fall out of formation…he would grab you.
  • You could not fail a test--He was there to help you study.
  • If you needed someone to talk to, he was the guy.
  • Nobody had a better attitude about this job; nobody had a better attitude about life.  Some of the things that bring other people down just didn’t affect him.  He was immune to bitterness, immune to pessimism.  You couldn’t stop his smile.
  • I could not have done it without him.
  • When we ran, he carried the Session 71 flag.  He did that as a badge of honor—and also so that we did not have to.
  • He tried to give me his lunch one day when I forgot mine.  You can’t ask for a better friend.

Class Leader Austin Bass--on why they voted to give Mike the Christy Dedman Spirit Award stated the following:

"We made the decision to give him the award because he was the guy to motivate you.  He would always push you."

During the short time he served on the streets of Nashville, Officer Petrina had immediately distinguished himself with his fellow employees and with the public.

During a debriefing after his death, the police dispatchers at the Emergency Communications Center repeatedly recalled how kind he was, how he was always pleasant on the radio.  How he always volunteered to take calls, even those calls that came at the end of this shift.  They described him as “just a good guy.”

Assistant Director Michelle Peterson was moved to remark, “this young man lived a short life but his legacy is powerful.”

Before I sit down, I would be remiss if I did not recognize and acknowledge the untimely death of Officer Andrew Nash exactly one month ago, on April 14 of this year.  His name is not on your program and his picture is not displayed before us.  He was not killed in the line of duty.  But, I suspect, he left us while on duty—because I never knew him to be off duty.

He was a tireless worker for the Department and for the Fraternal Order of Police.  He was constantly working to make both the Police Department and the Fraternal Order of Police better organizations—to give both organizations a better ability to serve their memberships and the citizens of Nashville.

Shortly after the death of Officer Nash, while working on another matter, I was searching for the source of a quotation I had thought should be attributed to Lincoln.  As it turns out, the author was Voltaire in the 18th century. It was then another quotation on the page caught my eye that I thought was very fitting of Officer Nash. 

"God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well."

Officer Nash, Officer Petrina and all the men and women we honor today, along with Mr. Branstetter and Senator Matthews, gave themselves the gift of living well.  At the same time, by being with us, and serving us, they gave us the gift of their lives.

As with any gift, we should accept it with grace and express our gratitude—but most of all we should cherish what we have been given and make the best use of that gift by living our lives as well as we can—and by continuing to pass their gift to us on to the community we serve.
Finally, I want to thank President Robert Weaver and the entire membership of the Fraternal Order of Police for making this day possible every year.
On behalf of the Police Department, thank you to Doctor Frank Lewis, Senior Pastor, Executive Pastor Tom Crow and the entire congregation of the First Baptist Church for allowing us to gather today and for being a part of this service.
I hope we can meet here again next year with no new names and no new pictures.

MNPD drill and ceremony team members kneel in salute to fallen officers

Chief Steve Anderson speaking during the memorial

A family member of Officer Michael Petrina lays a yellow rose in front of a memorial in his honorA drill and ceremony officer salutes the photos of fallen officers