BLOUNT COUNTY - The family of a Maryville police officer killed in the line of duty gathered at his children's school Friday to honor his memory.
Maryville police officer Kenny Moats was shot and killed in August, while responding to a call.
His widow Britteni Moats and their three children were at Porter Elementary School in Blount County, where the two youngest children are students.
There, the school and law enforcement community honored Moats.
"Good afternoon to everybody that could come out this afternoon for this rededication ceremony to honor the legacy and sacrifice of Kenny Moats," principal Jared Smith told the gathered crowd of students, teachers and members of the Alcoa and Maryville police departments, as well as the Blount County Sheriff's Office and Fifth Judicial Drug Task Force, on which Moats was serving at the time of his death.
A line of students approached the microphone, and each kid read a message of gratitude to the gathered officers.
"You are the best police officers anywhere," one student read.
"Thank you for saving people's lives," another said. "Thank you for being there for us every single day."
"Any time the kids get involved with anything, you can't help but to be moved by their honesty and their joy," Smith said.
The school wanted to do something to honor Moats, Smith said, so they rededicated the school's flag area to him during the ceremony Friday.
"It says in honor of Officer Kenny Moats and his brothers and sisters in blue," Smith said, reading the plaque to the crowd.
Capt. Jeff Clark with the Blount County Sheriff's Office was moved by the gratitude of the kids and the outpouring of love for the Moats family.
"He was such a fun-loving guy all the time, cutting up and things like that, so, you know, just to keep him memory alive - it means a lot to be able to do that, especially for his kids," Clark said.
Any time an officer is shot and killed, Clark said, like what happened on Wednesday in central Iowa, Blount County law enforcement agencies feel the pain of Moats' loss fresh once again.
"Any time something happens along those same lines, it brings back memories and thoughts of that particular time," Clark said.
The support of the community and the joy of these students makes law enforcement and the Moats family feel love during this difficult time, he added.
"It means a lot, I mean, just at such a young age to show support for us and things like that, especially with what's going on in the country today and things like that with law enforcement," Clark said.
"It was just important for us to honor (Moats') memory and have some kind of a legacy that we could pass on that people could enjoy and see and remember him," Smith said.
The flag area rededication includes the plaque, a stone bearing an American flag and new landscaping. Members of the William Blount High School Junior ROTC program raised a black and blue American flag for law enforcement at Friday's event.
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