Chretien, 38, was killed Aug. 3 when his truck and camper trailer rolled over in southwest Montana while returning from a family vacation; his wife, Claudette, and their three children also were in the vehicle, but they were not seriously injured.
Powell Police Chief Tim Feathers said Chretien was committed to his family and “committed to making Powell a better place for all of our families.”
Chretien came to Powell because he wanted to raise his family away from the big city life of College Park, Ga., where he also had been a sergeant.
Terry Mulkey, a longtime family friend from Georgia and retired police commander, said Chretien loved living in Powell.
“The only thing he said was, ‘It’s heaven. It’s like being in heaven’,” Mulkey recalled.
Invoking the Bible and God’s promises found there, speakers at the ceremony said Chretien was in a far better place now.
Officer Mike Hall, who described Chretien as a big brother, said the sergeant was the kind of leader who set the bar high, then asked people to follow him over it. Officer George Lainhart, a colleague from the College Park Police Department who led SWAT raids with Chretien, recalled him as always wanting to be the first one through the door.
Former Powell Police Officer Matt Danzer, a close friend and now an officer in Bozeman, Mont., said Chretien faithfully fulfilled his duties, to both the U.S. Army as a captain and, later, as a sergeant for the city of Powell.
Chretien also was remembered as a man who smiled and laughed a lot, who never quit and who had the rare quality of owning up to and making right his mistakes.
There also were tears and lingering disbelief over his sudden death.
Police officers from around the region and the state came to pay their respects, joining family, Powell Valley and West Park Hospital personnel and the Powell Volunteer Fire Department in a long, silent, blinking procession to and from the gym.
Following the remembrances, the Powell Honor Guard performed a three-volley salute outside the gym. Taps was played, and a U.S. flag presented to Claudette Chretien in recognition of her husband’s military service.
In an emotional tribute that closed the ceremonies, a dispatcher tried to reach Chretien by radio — the message amplified for all to hear.
“Powell 6 ... Powell 6,” called Park County Sheriff’s Office Communications Supervisor Monte McClain, pausing for a response he knew wouldn’t come.
The radio stayed silent, and McClain broadcast word of Chretien’s death. McClain assured the sergeant his work here was done.
“Sgt. Mike Chretien, you will never be forgotten,” he said. “May you rest in peace.”