Ferguson honors fallen

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Midway’s Ferguson Unit held their 19th annual memorial service last Wednesday for all Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) officers, as well as officers around the country, who have fallen in the line of duty.

In 1984, a resolution was passed by the U.S. Congress that declared the first week of May as National Correctional Officers Week.

“We’re here to honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for the safety and well-being of others,” said Senior Warden Rocky Moore to the unit’s chapel. “A ceremony such as this is fitting tribute to those brave souls. Today also reminds us the importance of reflection and allows us all to join together and remember all of those who are gone.”

Along with speeches from Assistant Wardens Allen McKee and Brad Hutchison along with Majors Michael Bates and Christopher Howeth, Ferguson employees performed memorial songs for the fallen and a memorial candle was lit. The lighting of this candle represented the living memory of those who have given their lives in the line of duty.

Majors Bates and Howeth were responsible for listing the names of all TDCJ officers who have lost their lives, including Ferguson officers Tommy M. Starnes (1931) and William M. Rader (1926). A trumpet was played to signal a member of their own was listed upon the honorees.

As is customary at memorial functions for those who gave their lives in service, the “Missing Officer” table was setup at the head of the church. The table is set for one and includes various items with symbolic value, including a white tablecloth, which symbolized the purity of the fallen’s motives while answering the call of duty.

The table also featured a sword to symbolize honor, a lemon to represent the bitter fate of those killed protecting us, a pinch of salt for the tears of the missing and their families who seek answers, a rose to remind us of the life of each, a vase and yellow ribbon as a symbol of determination to remember, an inverted glass to show their inability to participate in the day’s toast and an empty chair, for they are missing.

TDCJ lost one officer in 2017, Correctional Officer Shana Tedder, at the Crain Unit in Gatesville. She was involved in a use of force with an offender when she began to have difficulties with her breathing. She passed away on June 9, 2017.

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