On Friday, I had the honor of celebrating the life of a fellow officer who was killed in the line of duty.

Officer Sergio Carrera, of the Rialto Police Department, was gunned down during a drug raid by an alleged suspect with a criminal past.

Nothing cuts closer to your heart than to lose one of your own. Officer Carrera was a dedicated and professional officer who helped to better the world around him.

Shortly after joining the police force, he became a member of the California Narcotics Officers Association. One of his passions was taking drug dealers off the streets to help protect our communities.

Officer Carrera leaves behind a wife and two small children. During the funeral his small son, maybe just 2 years of age, reached out to his father's flag-draped coffin, while his little sister was held in the arms of his mother.

The overwhelming feelings for this family and what they have been going through are beyond description. The sacrifice this officer made for each one of us was made even more evident after witnessing such sorrow.

As we drove from the church to the cemetery in a long procession of police cars with emergency lights on, I witnessed the continued strength and brotherhood of all the men and women who serve our communities.

The California Highway Patrol shut down the freeways from Chino Hills to Colton. At every overpass and every on-ramp stood police officers, and at times civilians, standing at

attention, saluting the long procession line. The freeway overpasses were at a standstill as city and county firefighters stood atop their rigs - they, too, standing at attention and saluting.

The procession line was so long it took nearly 30 minutes until all had arrived at the cemetery. Standing side by side, fellow brothers and sisters who wear the uniform solidified the dedication that cops have for one another, especially when one has fallen.

I spoke with officers from around the state and nation who traveled here to celebrate the life of an officer, but also to console the officer's family and the family of police officers who worked with him.

This was not my first funeral for a fellow officer, and sadly won't be my last. From each one I gain continued strength to stand side by side with my brothers and sisters who are continuously in the streets fighting against a criminal element in our society that has become more ruthless, more evil and more dangerous.

As violent crime rises in many cities around our nation, let's never forget those who paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect us.

Police officers are like the firefighters pushing back against the flames that can bring harm to all of us if not stopped.

Sadly, 2007 has been a very violent year for police officers with a near record being killed. In a few short months, Officer Carrera's name will be forever etched into the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wall in Washington D.C., as well as our state's memorial in Sacramento.

Our community must continue to place our full support behind the men and women in uniform. They are the sole defenders of a very thin blue line that separates society from anarchy.

Having stood next to America's finest at the funeral, I'm confident that line will hold so long as we continue to have the full support of our communities alongside us.

As I walked through the cemetery back to my car, a deputy sheriff from Contra Costa approached me. We spoke briefly, exchanged a hug and his parting words were, "It was nice to meet you brother. I hope we never meet again like this."

If only that could be true.

Paul Chabot is a reserve deputy for the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department.

He lives in Rancho Cucamonga.