Midway’s Ferguson Unit held their 20th annual memorial service last Wednesday for all Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) officers, along with all criminal justice officers around the country, who have lost their lives 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.
“I want to thank you all for being here,” said Senior Warden Richard Gunnels to the attendees before the ceremony concluded. “Anybody in corrections or law enforcement is in the business of public safety and providing that at all costs. This is a ceremony to remember those who have given it all for public safety, wherever they were. We are here today to remember the sacrifice that was made but also to challenge you to be mindful and compassionate.”
Along with words from the Warden and other staff members, 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.
A slideshow displayed the names of all TDCJ officers that have lost their loves in the line of duty since the late 1800s. This included Ferguson officers Tommy M. Starnes (1931) and William M. Radar (1926).
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.