Walking together in stride Friday morning, officers and family members of the deceased stepped between the pews inside the packed chapel, yellow roses in hand for each name listed on the roll call.
Uniforms representing agencies from Odessa, Ector County, Midland County and as far as Lubbock lined the chapel’s back wall, and helped fill those pews shoulder to shoulder with the families and members of the public in observance, while several in those different uniforms made their way down the aisle to represent the fallen.
Different uniforms stepped forward, but at the front of the aisle, there was solidarity in that each put a yellow rose in the wreath in front — each for the same purpose.
Area agencies joined together with families and observers to honor and remember area officers killed in the line of duty, and officers throughout the state of Texas who were killed in the line of duty in the past year, during the annual police memorial service in Odessa on Friday morning at Sunset Memorial Gardens and Funeral Home.
With every rose that went into that wreath, and every volley fired outside in the gun salute after the service, there came that promise to remember and reflect.
“It’s the least that we can do for them putting their life on the line,” said one of the attending family members, Jacob Mayo.
Officers from the Odessa Police Department, the Ector County Sheriff’s Office, the Midland Police Department, the Midland County Sheriff’s Office and the Lubbock Police Department were in attendance along with representatives from other agencies, through a service that featured resolutions read by Ector County Commissioner Dale Childers and Odessa Mayor David Turner.
Through a roll call, the service named and honored fallen officers from across the state of Texas who died within the last year, as well as nearly a dozen local officers from area agencies who’ve died in the line of duty.
“Our purpose here today is to gather all the officers who are paying their respects to people in our law enforcement profession who have given the ultimate sacrifice — men and women who no longer can go home to their families, but yet we gather here each year to pay our respects,” Ector County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sgt. Gary Duesler said after the service.
“We’ve got people from all law enforcement represented here to show them that we have not forgotten them and we will not forget them, and we’ll carry on in their honor.”
Mayo was in attendance representing the family of Gordon “G.T.” Toal, who died while working with the Odessa Police Department in 1982, and who was Mayo’s father’s cousin.
He said his family has been represented at each of the annual services in the city since 2008, which is when the memorial was first put together after the deaths of OPD’s Arlie Jones, John Gardner and Abel Marquez after a shooting in 2007.
Mayo said that the service touches the families of those who’ve lost, and that it’s important to continue to remember and honor those who died in service.
“There’s no words to explain it,” Mayo said. “It’s an honor for the family, and it needs to be done for every officer.
“It means a lot that this happens every year,” he added.
For Duesler, he was glad to see those pews in the chapel filled again, and grateful that members of the public came to the service not only to support officers, but the families of those fallen officers as well.
“We’re all brothers and sisters in the same law enforcement community,” Duesler said.
The service was held as part of National Police Week, observed May 13-19.