Whitfield County detention officer Tara Cook may be gone, but she’s not forgotten.

Not by her family, not by her friends and co-workers, and not by the members of a Washington-based group traveling across the nation this summer to honor hundreds of other fallen lawmen like her.

Members of Cook’s family gathered outside the Whitfield County Correctional Center on a hot July afternoon for a ceremony during which her name was unveiled, carved into a nearby monument that also honors other fallen local law enforcement officers.

During an emotion-packed ceremony, Cook and her family were the center of attention, with her husband Seth, her parents Bob and Julie Williams, his parents Bill and Kim Cook, and his sister Jami being recognized by Sheriff Scott Chitwood.

Escorted by Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office personnel, Tara Cook’s husband Seth and other members of the family walk past a monument inscribed with her name. (Photo by Mitch Talley).

“The week of May 15 is now declared as Peace Officers Memorial Week,” Whitfield County Sheriff Scott Chitwood told the crowd. “A lot of local organizations have ceremonies, but the main ceremony is held in Washington, D.C., that I was honored to attend this year to represent Tara and her family.”

Normally, about 300 fallen officers are memorialized at the ceremony, he said, but this year’s services recognized more than 600 officers lost during 2021, including Cook, who passed away on Sept. 4, 2021 as the result of contracting COVID-19 while working as the admissions officer for the jail. Beginning in early 2020, due to the requirements of their job, thousands of law enforcement officers and other first responders throughout the United States contracted COVID-19 during the worldwide pandemic. Hundreds of law enforcement officers like Cook died from medical complications as a result of contracting the virus while remaining on duty and interacting with the community.

The crowd was so large – about 25,000 to 30,000 people – that the Friday night ceremony had to be moved to the Washington Mall, where attendees were flanked by the U.S. Capitol, Washington Monument, and Lincoln Memorial.

in memory of their daughter Tara Cook, Bob and Julie Williams sign a banner that will be carried around the nation by the Beyond the Call of Duty organization on the “Ride to Remember.” (Photo by Mitch Talley).

“It was a pretty impressive sight to sit there that night and turn around and see the Capitol building lit up in the darkness of the sky,” Chitwood said, “and to be looking at the stage straight ahead with the big-screen TVs and the Washington Monument towering toward the sky behind the stage. It was a pretty touching moment.”

The night concluded with the lighting of about 25,000 to 30,000 candles for a candlelight vigil. “It probably took less than 10 minutes for everybody to light a candle off the next, and everybody then raised their candles to the sky to honor the lost officers and the families that were present and those that were not able to be there,” the sheriff said.

Another service that Sunday afternoon was held at the U.S. Capitol, with Chitwood having the honor of going on stage and accepting medallions from the Fraternal Order of Police on behalf of the Cook family.

It was, the sheriff said, his voice cracking with emotion, “one of the best trips, one of the most moving, touching trips that you don’t ever want to have to go to, and I hope I never have to go back to it.”

During last month’s ceremony, Chitwood then presented the medallions to Cook’s husband and her parents. The sheriff also presented a framed portrait of Tara to her husband, along with a piece of inscripted glassware from ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) in appreciation of her service as a 287(g) officer.

Left, Seth Cook cuts the ribbon revealing his late wife’s name inscribed on the monument outside the Whitfield County Correctional Center. (Photo by Mitch Talley).

Another highlight of the local ceremony was the unveiling of Cook’s name inscribed on the memorial monument outside the correctional center.

“We’ve gathered here today to cut this ribbon and to display Tara’s name on this monument,” the sheriff said, “a day of rejoicing maybe in a respectful way, certainly with heavy hearts. You can see the other names that are listed (Durwin Potts, John McKinney, and Gabriel Singleton), and I asked Seth before the ceremony if he was willing and felt comfortable to come cut the ribbon and he said he wanted to.”

An emotional Sheriff Chitwood, with his voice breaking, told the crowd that he hopes “that’s the last name that we ever put on this monument.”

PSheriff Scott Chitwood talks about fallen officer Tara Cook during the ceremony. (Photo by Mitch Talley).

“We hear officers around the country that lose their lives – we as officers should think about it – but we don’t pause like we should,” he said. “But when it hits close to home and it’s one of our own, it puts it in perspective and it changes your mindset. So as much as we miss Tara, I’m very proud to be able to honor her today with this.”

Asked after the ceremony what he would like everyone to remember about Tara, Seth said: “She was really family oriented. She never put herself first – it was always about other people. I really loved the fact she wasn’t someone who would let anyone push her over. She was so strong, independent, and that’s what I loved about her. She was the strongest woman I know. I never knew selflessness until I married her.

“She was pregnant at the time of her death, and I thought life was just perfect. But stuff happens and you have to move on. That’s the hardest part. You just have to wake up every day and realize you’ve got to put your best foot forward, just don’t stop moving, don’t let depression set in, take time to grieve.”

A touching part of the ceremony came when Seth placed a rose next to the photo of his wife on the wall of the trailer from the Beyond the Call of Duty organization. Escorted by a group of motorcycles, the trailer is making its way across the nation on a summer-long journey to honor the 608 officers lost in 2021.

Seth Cook inserts a flower into a memorial wall of photos honoring his late wife, Tara, and more than 600 other fallen lawmen on the Beyond the Call of Duty trailer. (Photo by Mitch Talley).

Founder J.C. Shah said after he had retired from the sheriff’s department in a central Washington county in 2017 he felt a calling to organize Beyond the Call of Duty “to make sure that departments know that their loss is being felt nationwide, but more importantly that they are loved and they are blessed for what they do and letting the survivors know that we’re not gonna forget their loved ones.”

J.C. Shah, founder of Beyond the Call of Duty, offers words of encouragement to officers with the Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office after a ceremony honoring their co-worker, the late Tara Cook. (Photo by Mitch Talley).

The Dalton visit came on the 44th day of a 79-day journey that will ultimately conclude in Spokane, Wash., on Aug. 18. Cook and the other fallen law enforcement officers are remembered on the organization’s website at