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Bittersweet moment - slain cop’s 10-y-o son collects dad’s award

BY ALICIA DUNKLEY Senior staff reporter

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

THE sturdy little figure of 10-year-old D'Jhevani Lawrence as he manfully made his way to the dais to collect his father's medal of honour for gallantry during the National Honours and Awards ceremony at King's House in St Andrew yesterday was a bittersweet reminder for family members of those absent from the event for the love of country.

He made the trek in the place of his father Constable Delano Lawrence who along with his colleague Cordel Grant were ambushed and killed by gunmen while on patrol in the tough, violence-prone St Andrew community of Trench Town on Labour Day 2008. The two were yesterday posthumously awarded with the medal of honour for gallantry.

For the youngster and his family, though saddened, the award made Lawrence larger than life.

"My dad was a hero because of the things he did. You couldn't describe it in words but you could describe it in the actions he did like saving lives and helping people. I felt nervous but in a way anxious (when collecting the award) I wanted to do it right," the lad told the Observer afterward clutching the award tightly to his chest almost like a lifeline.

For Camelle Lawrence, Grant's widow, the event was moving.

"I felt proud but sad. It was a good event to see that out of a bad thing there can be good. D'Jhevani is coping. I can't say he is doing fantastic but he is coping," she said, eyes moist.

Grant's mother Doreen Dunn without taking her eye from her grandson's stout frame for a moment murmured "he is a little man. His father was the same thing. He was a little man to himself."

"I feel very proud. He was my only son. He was 29 years and seven months old when he died and I still cry to relieve the pain in my heart, he would be 32 now. He loved his job, he was a very proud policeman; people called him the laughing policeman because he loved to laugh. Everybody is proud of Delano. He died for his country," she said feelingly.

Despite what waited at the end, it was a trying walk for widow Geneve Henriques because she knew very well what Sergeant Wayne Henriques, her husband of 17 years, would have been doing just then had he been alive.

"I am sorry he wasn't here to collect it. He watched it (National Honours and Awards ceremony) every year. He was always excited when he saw his other colleagues receiving their awards. It's bittersweet. He has done well," she told the Observer with a pained smile.

It was a feeling understood only too well by Maxine Davis, the mother of 27-year-old Constable Jason Davis who was with Henriques at the time of the tragedy that claimed their lives.

"I have mixed feelings at this moment because when I saw the soldiers marching today I really remembered my son. I cried. And when the Anthem was being sung I felt it because I know that's what my son pledged his life for," she confided.

The two who were posthumously awarded the Badge of Honour for Gallantry, died from wounds received after going to the rescue of injured colleagues who had come under heavy gunfire from criminals in the vicinity for Excelsior High School on May 23 this year.

Yesterday National Heroes' Day one hundred and thirty-six people, including members of the uniformed groups, were officially recognised at the ceremony.

The awards were presented in various categories including the Order of Jamaica (OJ); Order of Distinction in the ranks of Commander (CD) and Officer (OD); the Medal of Honour for Meritorious Service; and the Badges of Honour for Meritorious and Long and Faithful Service.