By Joe Buck Coates
Next Tuesday is the day that the life of Steven K. Gardner, a state trooper who died in Hazlehurst in a shoot out with a Crystal Springs man on Friday, March 23, 1983, will be ceremonially recognized by state officials. Two signs will be unveiled that declare Hwy. 51 through Hazlehurst as Trooper Steven K. Gardner Memorial Highway.
Steven and 26 other troopers–many of whom have been memorialized in the same manner–have been killed while performing their duties as patrolmen, including protecting lives of civilians. The total of 27 Mississippi Highway Patrol troopers and officers is way too many–27, to be exact.
The men and women of our state’s police force – and other law enforcement agencies – place their life on the line each time they’re on patrol, walking the beat, investigating a crime or accident scene and directing traffic, for examples. Some even say that the troopers who administer driving tests to the starry-eyed teenagers and other new drivers have a dire need for thrills beyond their regular duties.
Either way, our state troopers serve Mississippians in many ways that we take for granted. We groan when we’re booking it up and down I-55 or one of our state highways that crisscross our county and look up to see the icon-ized state trooper vehicle stealthily parked and on full radar patrol. Their road blocks are sometimes an inconvenience. But, they are protecting us day-in-and-day-out and each and every night. And, they do so with passion.
We hope that you’ll join us in saluting and remembering not only the life and service of Trooper Steven K. Gardner, but also of all the state troopers who have given their lives and to those who are currently serving the citizens of Mississippi.