NACOGDOCHES COUNTY, TX (News Release) - Since 1871, there have been 10 law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty in Nacogdoches County.
Today the fallen peace officers' memorial service paid tribute to their service. The remembrance continues to bring comfort to families and colleagues.
A fallen peace officers memorial service rarely goes off script.
Nevertheless, the expected tributes quickly stir emotions and exhibit true honor and respect.
Guest speaker John Fleming chose no script. The Nacogdoches County attorney relied on his heart to bring the right words.
"How best to honor those who have passed, I think it best to visit with the survivors," Fleming said.
To honor Constable Darrell Lunsford, a peace officer shot and killed on Jan. 23, 1991, during a late-night traffic stop in Garrison, Fleming met with Shirley Lunsford, his widow.
"Ms. Lunsford's first words were, 'He cared about his community,'" Fleming said. "He entered law enforcement because he was dedicated to a purpose higher than his own."
Exhibiting the same dedication is grandson Austin Lunsford, a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper.
Shirley Lunsford said of her grandson, "And I worry about him, but that's the lifestyle he chose, and I have to abide by it. We've got to have dedicated police officers to keep our world intact, so I have to share him with the world."
The survivors of Sgt. Tom Sitton will share stories with the grandchildren who never got to meet their grandfather. Sitton was shot and killed on May 24, 1996, while serving a warrant. May is a tough month for Pamela Sitton, Tom Sitton's sister.
"I told John Fleming, I said, 'You know, I'm just thankful that Tom was the last one, and I hope he will be the last one,'" Pamela Sitton said.
The bond between peace officers and their families is strong. They mourn together. And heal together. The reunions can be nothing but bittersweet.
During 2017, in the United States, 135 officers were killed in the line of duty.
So far this year, the death toll is 54, according to the Officer Down memorial page.