ALAMOSA — “Today we are here to pay tribute to law enforcement who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and to show our appreciation for all those who continually serve on the front lines of this battle against crime,” Alamosa Mayor Ty Coleman said during the 11th Annual San Luis Valley Peace Officer Memorial last Wednesday evening.
Law enforcement members from throughout the Valley joined in a procession beginning in South Fork, following Highway 160 through Del Norte, Monte Vista and ending in Alamosa.
There Coleman and Alamosa Police Chief Duane Oakes acknowledged Peace Officer Memorial Day and Police Week, first instituted by President John F. Kennedy in 1962 and celebrated this week locally and throughout the country.
The week acknowledges the devotion, dedication and sacrifices made by law enforcement, some giving the ultimate sacrifice. Chief Oakes pointed out that every 58 hours an officer dies in the line of duty and that so far in this year alone 54 have died in the line of duty throughout the country.
Alamosa County Sheriff Robert Jackson read the names of those who have died in the line of duty in the San Luis Valley including Hinsdale County over the years beginning with the death of Rio Grande County Undersheriff Zack Allen in 1875 and including the most recent death of Hinsdale County Sheriff Roger David Coursey in 1994.
This year the service also honored members of the local law enforcement family who have passed away in the last couple of years: Sanford Police Chief Dale Ruff; Alamosa County Sheriff Sergeant Ron Goodman; Deputy Cyril Conrad Parker; Deputy Dusty Claunch; Deputy Gerald Langston; and former Alamosa County Sheriff James Drury. Colorado State Patrol troopers presented flags to family members of the deceased who were special guests at the May 16 ceremony.
The memorial service included special bagpipe music by Scott Beach, the National Anthem sung by Victoria Medina and taps played by Tyler Maestas.
Alamosa Police Corporal William Squires shared a special prayer, and Alamosa Police Officer Dana Knauer recited a poem.
An honor guard provided a Twenty One Gun Salute.
Mayor Coleman said, “Every day law enforcement put their lives on the line to serve and protect our community.”
He added that in rural communities like those in the Valley, law enforcement officers might also serve as first responders, firefighters and EMT personnel. Coleman referred to the efforts a few weeks ago when a dangerous fire threatened the Alamosa community, and it took the efforts of first responders from throughout the San Luis Valley to contain the situation.
“I was very proud to see the cooperative efforts by the law enforcement officers and San Luis Valley first responders,” the mayor said.
He commended police officers and their families for participating in community events like softball leagues, Halloween fright night, career fairs and Shop With A Cop during the holidays.
He said he knows firsthand what it is like to be a family member of someone serving in law enforcement, as his mother was a Houston police officer. The range of emotions can be like a rollercoaster ride ranging from compassion to anger and gratification to frustration. The job can take its toll physically and emotionally, he added.
Mayor Coleman encouraged the community to support law enforcement and encouraged law enforcement not to give up.
“Even when things get tough, please don’t give up because we need and appreciate you.”
A Monte Vista ambulance proceeds under the banner of the U.S. flag flown from ladder fire trucks as the Procession of Lights concludes on Fourth Street in Alamosa on Wednesday night.