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Mission honors fallen officers, fire fighters

20130513 MPD PoliceMemorialWeek CAB 0108MISSION—Mission Police Department held a ceremony Monday to commemorate National Peace Officers Memorial Week, honoring officers and firefighters who passed away in the line of duty and after retirement.

City officials, Mission Fire Department personnel, and officers with the Mission Police Department and county, state and federal agencies were present at the ceremony.

“It’s really a celebration of heroes that have gone before us,” said Polo Sandoval, master of ceremonies. “To know that their lives have not been in vain.”

“It is a sad day when we get together to remember those that we’ve known that gave their lives to protect us,” said Mission Mayor Norberto Salinas. “It makes us work a little harder to make this town a better place to live.”

Robert Dominguez, interim Mission police chief, said this was a ceremony to celebrate and honor the lives of those that passed away while serving and after their retirement from serving.

Dominguez said while preparing for the event, he was looking at photographs of officers Humberto Avila, Fulgencio Velasco III and Deputy Constable Rick Lewis. He said something that caught his eye was the patch that Velasco was wearing.

“I remember seeing that patch,” said Dominguez, being a collector of patches and knowing what it meant to him, the officers, and the families of the officers.

“I was asked a question,” said Dominguez, “’What do these patches mean to you? What do they represent?’

“I believe the question that should have been asked was, ‘What do these men wearing these patches signify to you?’

“That’s the most important part,” said Dominguez.

“They signify the foundation of our organization,” he said. “These men, along with the officers currently serving, have dedicated their lives to serving their community just like the fallen officers did. Velasco and Avila were part of the foundation of what the Mission Police Department is today. I hope the members of this organization today will be remembered as providing a small piece of that foundation that will be the Mission Police Department of the future.

“We have three families that we are a part of,” continued Dominguez. “First and foremost, we are the family of God. We stand together united as God’s children.

“Secondly, God gave us a family on earth –a mother, a father, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles, cousins and friends.

“And he also gave us our law enforcement family. And our Fire Department family.

“Remember, family does not forget family.”

“There are no words that we can say today, there’s no presentation that we can do… that would replace the ultimate sacrifice that your loved ones gave to the City of Mission,” said Martin Garza, City of Mission interim city manager and former police chief. “We do hope that these ceremonies give you some peace knowing the sacrifices made will not be forgotten,” he continued. “We will continue to encourage and thank the individuals that are still serving today. May the Lord keep them safe.”

Garza presented a proclamation from the city that declared this week as Peace Officers’ Memorial Week and Monday, May 13, 2013 as City of Mission’s Peace Officer Memorial Day.

Each agency took a moment to recognize officers that have sacrificed their lives.

In addition to Avila, Velasco and Lewis, Mission also recognized Chief Patrick Dalager, Investigator Sam Garza Jr., Officer Abelardo Saldana, Detective Sergeant L.B. Garza, Captain Leon (Tiger) Zamora, records clerk Josefa P. De Sylva, Asst. Chief Robert Rivera, Officer Juan Munoz, Chief Claudio Castaneda, Officer Albert Aguirre, Chief Robert Garza and Chief Jesus Maria Ramirez. Also remembered were firefighters Chief Rene Lopez Sr., Marshal Abelardo G. Saldana, Luciano B. Garza, Robert Guerra, Jaime Zapata and Percy Horace King. Communication officer Robert B. Garza and Darlene King were also given special recognition.

The ceremony included the United States flag being raised to half-mast, playing of taps, placing of memorial wreaths outside of the station, and a 21-gun salute.

There are approximately 800,000 law enforcement officers in the United States, including 146 sworn members of the City of Mission Police Department. More than 20,000 law enforcement officers in the United States have been killed in the line of duty, including two members of the Mission Police Department.

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