Fallen Heroes And Families Honored At First Responders Appreciation Banquet in Reagan County

Fallen Heroes And Families Honored At First Responders Appreciation Banquet in Reagan County

Anum Valliani

NewsWest 9

REAGAN COUNTY - Fallen heroes are the reason why hundreds came out to the First Responders Appreciation Banquet in Reagan County. Local deputy Josh Mitchell, Upton County Deputy Billy Kennedy, and 23 others killed in the line of duty between 2012 and 2013 were honored Saturday night.

In the opening remarks Reagan County Sheriff Jeff Garner said the night was about celebrating the lives of those that made the ultimate sacrifice, not about the grief.

Agencies from Odessa, San Angelo, El Paso, Crockett and others were in attendance at the Reagan County Community Building, with a keynote address from the Austin Police Chief, Art Acevedo.

"There's nothing that makes your heart go to your throat more than getting that call: 'Officer Down'" he said. "They need to know that if they should give their life to the service of the community that it won't be in vain, that their lives mattered, that their sacrifice mattered, and they won't be forgotten."

But the event wasn't just about the fallen heroes. It was also for those survivors who find themselves in this club they didn't want to be in.

"It's not something you want to do. You just kind of come together. Everybody comes together. It's not a thing you want to do, but once you've done it, it's like you've become a part- each of you- become part of a family," Mitchell's mother, Cindy, explained.

Crockett County Deputy Chris Martinez said law enforcement is a brotherhood. "No matter if we don't know the officers, we are connected in one way or another."

The Josh Mitchell Remembrance Association organized the event as the final part of the memorial for the anniversary of Deputy Mitchell's death just over two years ago. There was some hearty barbeque, a silent auction, raffle and door prizes, and most importantly some escape within the brotherhood.

"I think it's closure. It's part of the healing process for all survivors," Acevedo said.

But Mitchell said there's never really closure. Still, she's proud of the event, and believes the other's lost feel similarly.

"He's in up in heaven and he's happy. I think every one of them would be that way. I think every one of them are up there and they're looking down on us saying, 'Yall go, ya'll come together and be a family,'" Mitchell said.