By Shawna Graves

Four names were added to the memorial plaque as Big Bend Area Law Enforcement Officers Association (BBALOEA) gathered on the Sul Ross campus mall to honor fallen comrades May 30, and a long-awaited statue was dedicated to the memory of officers lost in the line of duty.

Three officers lost their lives in the line of duty in the Big Bend Area in 2016, while one name was added from 2015. The names of 154 fallen officers, dating from 1877, were included in the remembrances.

El Paso Police Department Officer Adrian Arellano was among those added to the roll call this year, as were El Paso Police Department Officer David Ortiz, Border Patrol Agent Jose Daniel Barraza and Border Patrol Agent David Gomez.

Sul Ross President Bill Kibler addressed the annual memorial service, saying, “All of us should call them heroes.”

Kibler expressed gratitude to Big Bend area law enforcement officers and their commitment to make the ultimate sacrifice if necessary.

The ceremonies also fulfilled a long-time goal on behalf of BBALOEA to see a permanent monument erected to honor fallen comrades. A sculpture was created by New Mexico artist Curtis Fort, and installed Nov. 22 in front of the Museum of the Big Bend.

The life-size bronze statue, titled “Donde Esta? (Where is he),” features a riderless horse waiting for the officer that never returns, and represents all the family, friends and coworkers left behind as law enforcement officers go out to face danger, and sometimes never return.

Kibler was honored to see the statue dedicated on campus grounds, saying, “We humbly accept our responsibility for its perpetual care.”

Gary Painter, Sheriff of Midland County, served as master of ceremonies, and Mark Dettman, Chaplain of Midland County Sheriff’s Office, delivered the invocation and benediction. U.S. Navy Veteran and musician Dave Bray sang the National Anthem.

Distinguished Sul Ross alumnus, past BBALOEA President, retired Texas Rangers Captain and former director of law enforcement for Texas attorney general’s office, Clete Buckaloo read a statement from Governor Greg Abbott, saying law enforcement officers “epitomize selflessness, courage and honor” and “our state must stand by those who serve and protect.”

Buckaloo thanked the family members of law enforcement, saying, “You make a tremendous sacrifice as well, by being a family member.”

Keynote speaker Will Hurd, Congressman of the 23rd District acknowledged the dangers facing law enforcement along the 800 miles of border territory in his district, saying they “put their lives on the line every day so we can sleep soundly at night.”

Hurd read the names of the recently fallen officers, and said, “Each of the names on this memorial also represents a law enforcement department. It’s easy to take the role of law enforcement for granted, but our safety is the result of their dedication and work.”

Following remarks, a roll call of 154 fallen officers was made by representatives from 35 local, state and federal agencies.

BBALEOA President and U.S. Border Patrol Watch Commander Michael French and Special Ranger Dave Duncan placed the memorial wreath.

A three-volley salute by the Texas Department of Public Safety Honor Guard was followed by "Taps," played by Jorge Limon, U.S. Border Patrol Marfa Sector.

The flag folding was conducted by a multi-agency honor guard. The U.S. Border Patrol and Texas Department of Public Safety played the pipes and drums; and the Midland County Sheriff’s Office Mounted Patrol led the riderless horse. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine performed the fly over.

The service concluded with the benediction.


U.S. Border Patrol and Texas Department of Public Safety Pipes and Drums Corps, Midland County Sheriff's Department Mounted Officers, and Multi-Agency Color Guard line up for the procession at the 2017 Big Bend Area Law Enforcement Memorial hosted on Sul Ross campus May 30. Multi-Agency Color Guard stands at attention during the National Anthem at 2017 Big Bend Area Law Enforcement Memorial hosted on Sul Ross campus May 30. Flag-folding was performed by a Multi-Agency Honor Guard at the 2017 Big Bend Area Law Enforcement Memorial hosted on Sul Ross campus May 30.