Seffner, Florida - The funeral service for two St. Petersburg Police officers will be filled with memorable moments celebrating their service and lives including the release of more than three dozen doves.
Captain Jerry Lewis built the aviary and loft housing his 95 doves. Each one is ready to take flight to bring peace, hope and unity to a family celebrating an event or to bring comfort as in the case of two St. Petersburg officers killed in the line of duty.
"I'll be taking 42 birds, 21 for each officer for the 21 gun salute," explains Lewis.
Photo Gallery: Captain Jerry Lewis' doves
As with every fallen soldier or public servant, Captain Lewis offers the dove release for free. He says, "It's my way of saying thank you." He released the doves at the funeral of two Tampa Police officers last summer.
Captain Lewis says the flock will fly around 15 to 20 times, then fly back to the loft in Seffner. Captain Lewis starts training the doves about four months after they've hatched and in about eight to nine months they're ready to be released. He raises the chicks from the time they hatch once they're wean they go to work.
"When I first turn them lose they land on trees and houses but after two or three times they get used to going back in there," says Captain Lewis. "Then I take them a mile away and go to all points of the compass and turn them lose. Keep increasing the distance however far you want them to go they learn to come back home they love me," he adds.
And the flock can go far as Captain Lewis learned last week after his friend's funeral. "It was 109 miles and they beat me home."
Captain Lewis hopes these Doves will be bring the officers' families some closure. He says, "I know some say officers, but that's someone's father, husband. And I really care about them. It's the least I can do for what the officers have given."
Click here for more information on the White Dove Release.