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Service honors fallen peace officers

By Gheni_Platenburg
May 11, 2010 at 12:11 a.m.
Updated May 12, 2010 at 12:12 a.m.

Sheriff T. Michael O'Connor salutes during the memorial service for Fallen Officers Tuesday. A purple wreath was placed at a small monument after Victoria College Police Chief Matt Williams read the list of names of officers who have died in the past 12 months.

As the 11 a.m. church bells rang softly in the distance, a bittersweet mood permeated the onlookers and participants of the 2010 peace officer's memorial, held Tuesday outside of the Victoria County Sheriff's Office.

"This is all about the aspects of respect, honor and remembrance," said Sheriff T. Michael O'Connor. "This memorial is always memorable not only because it is in remembrance of the officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice, but also because of its symbolism to officers who still serve."

The late President John F. Kennedy designated May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day, however, law enforcement agencies nationwide celebrate National Peace Officers Week from May 8 to 14, paying tribute to officers serving their communities and remembering those who have died in the line of duty.

During 2009, 11 law enforcement officers in the state died, including Victoria County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Tim Olsovsky, who died of a heart attack in October.

"This service stands out more so due to the fact that the sheriff's office lost one of theirs and it hits home," said O'Connor. "It reminds you of a thunderstorm afar with the darkness and rain of such a storm until it comes upon you, then you realize its severity."

Others agreed.

"Tim probably would have said (honoring him) wasn't necessary, but the rest of us say it is," said Laura Kinnison, a crisis intervention counselor with Hope of South Texas.

On Wednesday, Captain Herb Tucker and Chief Deputy Terry Simons will accompany the Olsovsky family to participate in the national Peace Officers Memorial Day event in Washington, D.C.

Speakers at the Victoria memorial included the Rev. Fred Hobbs of Mt. Nebo Baptist Church, County Judge Don Pozzi and Mayor Will Armstrong.

"When I look out and see blue on one side and brown on the other, I know it's a rarity because normally you are integrated and working together," said Armstrong.

Several performers including the Rio Grande Valley Sector of Border Patrol Agents, who provided a bagpipe rendition of "Amazing Grace," gave musical tributes.

"It's an honor to pay tribute to the fallen officers," said Amador Carbajal, who has been with border patrol for the last 17 years.

Additionally, St. Joseph High School band member Eric Still played "Reveille," while the varsity Treble Choir sang the "Star Spangled Banner."

This is the first year that a choir has been invited to perform at the event.

"We're very honored to be here today and to be invited to celebrate this memorial," said 18-year-old choir president Jolynn Hoang. " We're thankful for being able to use our gifts to help out our community."

The ceremony drew onlookers from various organizations.

"It's our duty and obligation to attend this type of event. These are our friends and we want to show our support," said Kinnison, who has attended the event for the last 10 years.

Jeanie Foassati attended the event as part of the Victoria Civilian Police Academy.

"It's an honor to be included. We always try to help the police in any way we can," said Fossati.

Seemingly nothing, not even work, could have stopped one audience member named Nancy from attending the ceremony and honoring officers such as her son who began his law enforcement career in Victoria.

"It's important that we support our law enforcement officers. They are the civil servants who protect us," said Nancy, who declined to give her last name because she called in to work to attend the event.

Onlooker Bailey Breunig, whose husband is a Victoria police officer, came to pay her respects, knowing from personal experience the troubles associated with having a loved one work in law enforcement.

"It's scary having (my husband) go out and never knowing what the day holds, but I can't imagine him doing something else because this is what he loves to do," said Breunig.

O'Connor said the memorial is a good example of how law enforcement works.

"No matter where you work, we're all family and committed to the service of the people," said O'Connor. "That's what the fraternal aspect of law enforcement is about."



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