To protect and serve
As part of National Police Week, law enforcement officers from the Sparta, Fort McCoy and Tomah Police Departments as well as the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office and Wisconsin State Patrol were recognized by members of the community as well as fellow officers during a Law Enforcement Appreciation Celebration Friday afternoon held in Monroe County at the Barney Community Center.
The ceremony began with the presentation of colors by the Sparta Police Honor Guard and the National Anthem performed by Coulee Region Choir.
Pastor Brian Young of Faith Evangelical Free Church led an invocation, “It’s such an honor to be here today. These public servants here today embody so much of what it means in protection, justice, defense and advocacy of these very people in our community. They routinely see the worst and most hurtful behavior that occurs in our community. Theirs is a work that is dangerous mentally, emotionally and physically.”
Young prayed to strengthen and protect them, grant them courage for their work and provide the resources they need to serve.
State Assembly Representative Nancy VanderMeer reminisced about her time with the Tomah Police Department as a radio operator. She was 19-years-old at the time and she thinks back on it as a memorable experience.
“I learned at an early age what strength and character it takes to be a law enforcement officer. I watched as the officers would take all sorts of calls, but what struck me incident after incident was how the officers’ strength of character was very evident no matter what the circumstance,” she said. “During the moments of the most serious consequences, it became clear to me that the officers believed that deep down protecting others was their calling.”
VanderMeer also spoke about the selflessness she observed daily and the feeling that all would be well with a sense of peace and calm when those brave officers were around.
Representative Loren Oldenburg spoke about his own experience attending the Vernon County law enforcement appreciation and how the professionalism that each individual officer showed stood out to him.
“You take your job very seriously. Each morning when you leave your house and your loved ones you know there’s always a chance that you might not come back,” he said. “That’s very hard and I appreciate what you do. Be safe out there.”
Friday’s keynote speaker was former Attorney General, Judge Brad Schimel who spoke about the inspiration for his speech; two jury members who had lost loved ones in the line of duty. One of the jurors had lost her brother-in-law and the other had lost her son-in-law, Captain James Lutz of the Waukesha Police Department.
“We promise the families that we will never forget. I have never forgotten,” he said. “Jim was the first squad out the door when a father, son bank robbing team came to Waukesha County. These two evil men had a plan and they took Jim’s life in cold blood.”
Schimel went on to say that people who chose careers in law enforcement did so to make a difference, for which he is grateful. He said he wears a bracelet in memory of all officers who’ve been lost in the line of duty.
Chaplain Jef Skinner later recognized those fallen officers connected to Monroe County, which included Trooper Gary G. Powless who died in a vehicle crash on I-94 near Tomah on May 18, 1980.
Trooper Deborah M. McMenamin’s end of watch was October 26, 1989 while conducting a traffic stop. Her final resting place is in Tomah.
Trooper Anthony J. Borostowski, of Tomah, died on April 11, 2017 in a car accident.
Skinner asked for a moment of silence to recognize the sacrifice of the three individuals who died in the line of duty.
Sparta Chief of Police David Kuderer spoke about the tragedy that occurred on January 6 in Sparta when two brothers fell through the ice on Perch Lake, one survived and one did not.
Kuderer awarded Officer Corey Johnson, Deputy Ethan Young, Officer Jenna Lee, Officer Chris Welker and Trooper Jake Edwards the Award of Valor for their heroic efforts in attempting to save both of the two boys.
“Knowing the obvious risk of entering the ice with no safety equipment, these officers assisted in getting the child safely to shore. These officers disregarded their own safety demonstrating their true dedication to protect and serve,” he said. “These officers knowingly placed themselves in a situation where they risked great harm or death to themselves in order to save the life of the child. Their actions are worthy of the highest honor we can bestow and we are proud to call them one of our own.”
Detective Jose Tovar was also awarded for saving the life of an elderly woman on July 8, 2018 by entering a burning building. The woman was unable to leave the apartment on her own.
Schimel also talked about how often heartwarming stories about the good acts of law enforcement go unnoticed.
“We don’t see those stories enough and it’s something we all should be very proud of,” he said. “It’s good that we take at least one week out of the year to honor those who’ve paved the road in sacrifice and ensure their families we haven’t forgotten and to honor those who serve faithfully everyday.”