By Heather Regula, Correspondent
The Bell County Sheriff’s Department Foundation Fallen Officer Memorial Dedication Ceremony took place at the Bell County Justice Center at 3 p.m. on Saturday, December 9. The sculpture, created by Bell County Commissioner Tim Brown, serves as a reminder of the sacrifices made by those in law enforcement. Numerous law enforcement officers, from different agencies, stood in solemn support and honor of the statue unveiling.
Sheriff Eddy Lange called out the names of 22 men and women who have lost their lives in the line of duty – from 1878 to present day. Family members of the deceased, who were in attendance Saturday, were invited to say a few words to the audience and then circle the sculpture. Lange gave a brief overview of the Bell County Sheriff’s Office Foundation, a non-profit organization created with three original goals – build a monument to honor fallen officers, financially assist peace officers in troubled times, and to provide scholarships. Shortly after Hurricane Harvey hit, a fourth goal was realized – to have funds available to help people in Bell County.
Commissioner Brown recognized the desire for a law enforcement memorial and the creation of the sculpture was very personal for him.
“My dad was in law enforcement and he was one of the lucky ones who made it home each day. He worked a lot of nights, and my mom used to stay up, listening to the scanner and praying,” explained Brown.
Larry Wilkey, 23-year-veteran with the Temple Police Department, was in attendance Saturday.
“There were nine names on the list of deceased that I know. Violence continues, and this memorial gives officers and our community a place to reflect,” said Wilkey.
Salado Police Chief Rick Ashe shared Wilkey’s sentiment regarding the importance of the memorial.
“This is good for Bell County – it’s important for the fallen, and for their families,” stated Ashe.
Constable Tom Prado is familiar with many of the names on the list of the fallen, and the memorial is significant to him.
“This is an honor – to know that the people here today came out here to pay homage to officers, to the law enforcement community. We are all brothers and sisters. To lose an officer is like losing a family member,” remarked Prado.
Sheriff Lange thanked the hundreds of sponsors for making the sculpture and the dedication possible. The statue is the first stage of plans for a more substantial memorial plaza.