Law enforcement officers gathered from across the country at the Tune Inn tonight; some from right here in Washington D.C. and others came all the way from Detroit, and its Metro area.  Between laughs, tears, hugs and echoing bagpipe music, the POAM Police Reception brought another year of celebration, remembrance, and heartfelt toasts to our fallen comrades.

In a profession where the strongest thrive, one thing was evident tonight – the brave men and women who serve in law enforcement deserved and earned a night to be together, share a clink of the glass, and even shed a tear remembering their fallen partners and friends. All too often, the families of our police officers often pay the price of long hours, sacrifice, and heartbreak. It’s a profession that’s uncertain and harsh, but it’s also profession of pride and resilience.

Metro Detroit Police & Fire Pipes & Drums Makes an Appearance at the Tune Inn

A 30 year police veteran, Gary Marchetti served the Houston Police for 7 years before giving his career to the Dearborn Police Department for 23 years. He retired as a Detective Sergeant and was inspired to found the Metro Detroit Police & Fire Pipes & Drums band after the death of Jessica Nagal Wilson in Hazel Park in 2002. In between playing sets, he stopped to chat and share a bit of his story.

“Jessica Nagal Wilson was responding to a barking dog complaint in Hazel Park in 2002 when she was ambushed by the caller himself. The man decided that he was going to kill a police officer and it just happened to be Jessica that responded to his setup.

In order to give Jessica the proper burial and sendoff that she deserved, we knew that we needed to have bagpipes and drums played at her funeral. At the time, the only way to get that done was to call Windsor or Cleveland, but we needed to take care of our own, so the band you see here today was formed.”

The death of Jessica Nagal Wilson isn’t the only one that drives the members of the Detroit Metro Police & Fire Pipes & Drums to continue their mission. Too many have fallen, each one a part of our brother and sisterhood. Everyone the band has buried shares that, but it truly hits home when that person is your brother, sister, mother, or father.

“I’ve played for my own partners. Each one hits you a little differently. There was a fireman in Paw Paw, Michigan that we played for. His 5 children were standing with their mom next to the casket, each crying, “Daddy! Daddy!”

Our protocol is to play Amazing Grace three times at the end of the service. I start, and then the rest of the band joins in, but I couldn’t play. Someone was cutting onions in that room. When it hits, it hits. I’ll never forget that.”

Policing has changed since former Detective Sergeant Marchetti served. As the saying goes, “the only thing that’s certain is uncertainty. Nothing stays the same, but everything changes.” Certainly, the advent of social media and body cameras has evolved policing as a era of technology and surveillance in all aspects becomes the norm. With everything evolving, we asked Marchetti if he saw anything that was the same in policing, and his answer was an earnest one.

“No matter how you feel about the laws of the land, the impact of policing has the same effect. That impact is especially true for the families of law enforcement officers. When I was on-duty, I always kissed my wife and kids goodbye and told them I loved them.

You don’t do that because you assume that you won’t be coming home, you do it because you’ve seen too many men and women that wish that they had, and now they can’t.

The blood that runs through our veins is red. All spilled blood causes tears. We are all the same inside and that’s something I wish everyone remembered more.”

Until the day comes when heartbreak and tears subside, the Detroit Metro Police & Fire Pipes & Drums will continue traveling wherever they’re needed. They’ll keep existing entirely off donations, often paying for their uniforms and instruments directly from their own pockets. In their eyes, it’s the least they can do when one of their own is taken all too soon.