Thirty-nine Texas peace officers receive an honor on Saturday that no one from any state who puts on the badge and abides by an oath to protect and serve would ever want.
Their names etched on a big, black gleaming wall erected on the State Capitol grounds, these men and women bring the total number of Texas peace officers killed in the line of duty to 1,912. A memorial service, which occurs every odd year when the state legislature is in session, honors the fallen. This year, twenty-five of the 39 names added perished since the last service in 2011 and 14 were uncovered from historical records.
The Peace Officer's Memorial Foundation, founded in 1987 to honor Texas' fallen heroes and to support the families left behind, dedicated the monument in May 1999. The wall and accompanying memorial service proved to be so successful that in 2002 employees with the POMF brainstormed fund-raising ideas and decided on an annual motorcycle rally - Ride for the Fallen.
"We organized it from the ground up and hoped for 100 bikes to participate," said Carol Whitfield, organizer of the event. "I think we came close to that number and every year since we hope to get the word out to both law enforcement and the public and try to increase participation and awareness."
Today, bikers ride in from all over the country and Whitfield expects as many as 400 on Saturday. The average in recent years is about 350. Their goal is 500 which isn't a stretch considering every ride brings a surprise or two. Last year, an Australian group touring Texas joined and a few years ago a line of nearly 50 bikes from nearby Fort Hood joined. This year, the father of a fallen officer, whose name will be dedicated, pays homage by riding his son's motorcycle.
"It is always a moving sight to see all those bikes roll up the highway together to stop at the memorial wall and take time to honor their brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, comrades and friends," Whitfield said.
Money raised funds the cost of the biennial memorial services, college scholarships, research to uncover all the fallen in the state's history, and to help families in a line of duty death. The POMF hopes to raise $10,000 this year.
The 12th annual Ride for the Fallen begins promptly at 10 a.m. Saturday at Cowboy Harley-Davidson, 10917 South IH-35, Austin, TX. A police escorted procession ends at the State Capitol where the memorial service commences at 11 a.m. Cost is $35 for pre-registration or $40 day of.
Other Rides Scheduled this Weekend
Rohde's Rebels Riding Against ALS May 4: The Walled Lake Eagle Riders host their 2nd annual run for ALS in honor of Tom Rohde, a charter member of the club, in Walled Lake, MI.
CDF Firefighters/Cal Fire Charity Ride May 4: This Chico, CA ride benefits the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
Ride for Autism May 4: The 7th annual run in Blue Bell, PA is hosted by the Lucky Seven Motorcycle Club. Proceeds benefit The Center for Autism.
Bikers with a Mission Ride KC May 5: The 24th annual run supports the City Union Mission in Kansas City, MO. Funds support the homeless and families in crises.
USMC Toys for Tots Spring Motorcycle Ride May 5: The U.S. Marine Corps and Edison Elks Lodge host this ride for kids in Edison, NJ.
Ride 4 Justin May 5: The Southington Fire Department in Connecticut holds this annual ride in memory of one of their own who fell 20 feet off a ladder during a training session. He died a day later. Money goes towards a scholarship fund.
Ride for Kids May 5: Ride for Kids benefits the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation and features numerous rides throughout the country during the year. This weekend kickstands are up in Los Angeles and Albuquerque, NM.
Written By: AndrewT