Rows of Killeen Police Academy cadets stood respectfully, hands clasped behind their backs, during a ceremony on Friday to honor the police officers in Texas who made the sacrifice they also committed to make.
Around 150 law enforcement officers, many in dress uniform and all with mourning bands across their badges, gathered at the Killeen Community Center for the annual Bell County Police Memorial Ceremony. Temple Police Chief Floyd Mitchell read the names of the 12 officers who were killed in Texas in the line of duty during 2018 while members of the honor guard placed a rose and saluted their fallen brethren.
A Killeen Police Department Honor Guard member said the ceremony was a time to think.
“It’s a day to reflect back on who we have lost this past year,” said Detective Al Haas. “It’s a way to give closure and to honor the officers who gave their lives to do this job.”
The keynote speaker said that law enforcement is a special calling.
Former Harker Heights Police Chief Mike Gentry told the crowd that his grandfather, a Texas Ranger, asked him one blunt question when he expressed an interest in law enforcement.
“Are you willing, in the course of your duties, to sacrifice everything for what is right?”
The question made young Gentry think, and still does.
“It’s not about you anymore, or about being wealthy and recognized,” he said. “You always put others first, and it takes a special dedication and determination to put yourself in harm’s way.”
Although the ceremony focused on the officers who died in 2018, fallen Killeen officers Detective Charles “Chuck” Dinwiddie and Officer Robert “Bobby” Hornsby were on many minds.
Gentry pointed toward the front row where Dinwiddie and Hornsby family members were seated.
“We’ve decided we will not forget the Dinwiddie and Hornsby family. I’ll never forget Chuck and I’ll never forget Bobby,” he said.
Gentry’s powerful speech drew tears from some and a standing ovation at its conclusion. The former chief retired in April last year and now is the director of the Texas Police Chief’s Association.
A civilian’s perspective
One woman, who has attended the ceremony for at least the past five years, said her husband and son were in law enforcement.
“Once it’s in the family, you see what officers go through on a daily basis, and that they face the chance of not coming home,” said Ursula Rushing, president of the Killeen Citizen’s Police Academy Association.
The group is comprised of graduates of the citizen’s police academy who continue to support the Killeen Police Department.
“Being a police officer has become a dangerous job, especially when you think about the split-second decisions they have to make. It takes patience and control,” she said.
The ceremony was emotional for both officers and civilians like Rushing.
“This is a sad day, but it’s always good to see the turnout and the respect given to the event,” Rushing said. “I think people should realized that police are people and to treat them with respect. We need to keep supporting our officers.”
One police chief in attendance reflected on the solemn day before reading the names of the 12 fallen officers.
“I told myself not to get emotional,” Mitchell said, tearful despite his best efforts. “It hurts when we lose one of our own.”