TWIN FALLS — “These guys and gals have given it all.”
State Rep. Linda Wright Hartgen summed up the sacrifice of fallen law enforcement officers during her speech at the Law Enforcement Memorial on Saturday at City Park.
“These people are just like you and me,” she added. She also noted how law enforcement officers have families, bills, and, “This is not an easy job. It’s very stressful.”
Admitting reluctance, Hartgen nonetheless included some sobering statistics in her speech, including the fact that 153 officers were killed in the line of duty nationwide in 2018, and 38 so far in 2019. The number of suicides in the law enforcement community is even higher, she said, with post-traumatic stress disorder being a major concern.
Hartgen found encouragement, though, in a number of biblical quotes, especially “Blessed are the peacemakers,” from the Gospel of Matthew.
For Rev. Jim O’Donnell, that sentiment rang true, as well. Servicing as master of ceremonies for the memorial, O’Donnell is the volunteer chaplain for both the Twin Falls Sheriff’s Department and the Idaho State Police. He has been organizing the annual memorial for many years.
“I know the impact on families,” he said of the fallen officers. Knowing several of the fallen officers himself, he added, “These are personal stories.”
“We’re here to honor the fallen, and to thank those who are serving,” O’Donnell said. “The job they do is important.”
The Law Enforcement Memorial takes place each year during Police Week, which started in 1962 under President John F. Kennedy. May 15 is the heart of that week, designated as Police Officers Memorial Day.
Among those in attendance at Saturday’s memorial were members of the Iron Warriors Motorcycle Club and the Order of the Garter.
Many of the members are active or retired law enforcement officers, said Mike Nussgen, who drove from Boise for the memorial. “We’ve all been touched by the violence,” he said. The disrespect and non-support for law enforcement officers is also a reason the organization is active at such events.
Dana Gowan of Twin Falls brought her six-week-old mixed breed puppy, Bling, to the memorial. “We came out to show our support.”
Public officials were also in attendance, with Twin Falls County Prosecutor Grant Loebs voicing his support of the approximately 5,000 law enforcement officers in Idaho. In more than two decades of working as prosecutor, he has seen those officers threatened and placed in danger, while they showed incredible dedication and commitment to duty, he said.
“It takes a special combination of dedication and integrity,” Loebs said. “We have so many with those qualities.”
As he introduced Hartgen, Loebs announced her as the first recipient of the Law Enforcement Legislator of the Year Award for her continued support of issues concerning those in the field. Hartgen received a plaque before taking her place at the podium.
The names of Idaho’s 72 fallen officers were read, and when the names of the nine Magic Valley officers were proclaimed, their fellow officers placed red roses on a display near the band shell. The mother of Jerome County Sheriff’s fallen deputy James Moulson being present, the rose was presented to her when his name was read.
The memorial concluded with an honor guard firing a 21-gun salute, and Rick Speicher of Twin Falls playing “Taps” on his bugle. Then, Lighthouse Christian Fellowship provided a lunch as their way to support the many law enforcement officers present, and confirm, as many had said throughout the ceremony, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”
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