KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Hundreds of people gathered at Loudon County Memorial Gardens on a beautiful but somber Wednesday afternoon to say one final goodbye to their loved one and hero, Sergeant Chris Jenkins.
Mounted troopers with the North Carolina State Highway Patrol wore dress uniforms and pulled Jenkins' caisson, which carried him to his final resting place at the Loudon County Memorial Gardens.
As a U.S. Air Force veteran, Jenkins was given full military honors at his burial -- including a 21-gun salute and the playing of "Taps."
Before the burial, the public had a chance to pay respects in the Loudon County High School gymnasium Wednesday afternoon. Jenkins' son, Clay Jenkins, spoke to the large crowd of mourners about the hero who inspired him to become a law enforcement officer: his father.
“Dad you were and still are my Superman,” his son Clay Jenkins said. "Wearing this uniform is the most honorable thing I’ve ever done in my life. I will continue to do so in honor of Jason and dad. Dad always told me I would never do it, but I knew very early on that I would. Even when he said no, I couldn’t help but follow the best footsteps I could follow. I had to do everything that daddy done, because I had to grow up to be like my hero. I just always wanted to make him proud.”
You can watch the service below or at this link:
Law enforcement officers from across the country, Governor Bill Lee and many others arrived in Loudon County Wednesday to pay their respects to the fallen deputy.
A long procession of officers escorted Jenkins and his family to the cemetery after the memorial ceremony, and hundreds of people along the route stood by and embraced a long and solemn silence out of respect.
K9s also lined the route as Jenkins, a long-time Loudon County K9 officer, passed by one last time.
"The children loved him, his fellow deputies loved him and I loved him. We will all miss him beyond words," Sheriff Tim Guider said at the service. "I remind each of us this: pause, slow down and enjoy life while you can. Take the time for your loved ones, and tell them you love them each and every day."
Sgt. Jenkins died trying to protect other drivers last week. The 20-year veteran Loudon County officer was trying to pull a ladder that fell off a vehicle onto I-75 when he was hit and killed by a semi-truck driver under the influence that failed to stop, investigators said.
Jenkins is survived by his mother, Faye Everett, stepfather Kenny Everett, his son, Clay Jenkins, daughter, Chloee Jenkins, his fiancé, Kristi Ingram, and her daughters Hannah and Delaney Ingram, his K9 partner, Deja vu, his sister and brother-in-law, Melissa and Dan Smith, brother and sister-in-law, Kent and Lori Everett, and several other family members.