Room Full of Heroes

neff-and-centerville-boyI spent the evening in a room full of heroes this week. It was the Department of Public Safety Awards banquet. I was surrounded by men and women who serve all of us, every day, in extraordinary ways. I listened and watched as the awards were given for saving lives. One driver drove into oncoming traffic in an apparent suicide attempt with her 8 year old and 18 month infant in the car. A trooper got there, applied a tourniquet to the 8 year old who was losing significant blood, got the child airlifted to Primary Children’s, and saved the child’s life. Another officer in the St. George police 14572829_1153450934702470_1671469341188840649_n

One after another they came onto the stage to receive their award. They stood next to Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox, Commissioner Keith Squires, Deputy Commissioner Nannette Rolfe and Colonel Michel Rapich. They looked humble, slightly awkward even, as if they didn’t want to be there. This is the “Trooper of the Year” Stephen Matthews pictured here, a leader in many ways in the Utah Highway Patrol. He was like so many of the wonderful men and women I admired that night. There was no strutting onto the stage. There was only humility. They looked happy to shake the hands of their superiors, proud of their work, but uncomfortable being singled out when they would be the first to tell you that they were just doing their job.


_mg_0106I was there as part of the Beyond the Badge program at KSL Newsradio, to accept an award on its behalf, to thank the Larry H. and Gail Miller Foundation who makes the program possible, and to see our officers honored. I am so proud of the officers who we have the opportunity to feature each week on KSL, officers from every jurisdiction in the state. It was a real pleasure to watch them walk, one by one, onto the stage and be recognized in front of their peers. Their acts of service, large and small, have such a profound effect on the communities they serve.


I had not anticipated the surge of emotion I would feel when Colonel Rapich described the “Table for One.” Are you familiar with this ritual? Law enforcement families likely are, but I was not. I had seen the ceremony once before, but it was not at the front of my mind until I felt the powerful emotion in the Colonel’s description of the Table and noticed it set off to the side of the dining hall. table-for-one

The Colonel spoke, “We set the Table to honor and to remember them for they are not with us.

The white tablecloth, which stands for purity and their willingness to answer the call to duty, so that all communities will remain safe.

The single rose reminds us of loved ones and families of our comrades, who are keeping the faith. The yellow ribbon on the vase, just like the ones worn by thousands who admire them and who demand justice and safety for all.

The slice of lemon is on the plate to remind us of their bitter fate.

The salt on the table which symbolizes the families tears.

The Bible represents strength achieved from faith, helping to sustain those while in the line of duty, founded as one nation under God.

The faded picture on the table serves as a reminder to their families that they are loved and missed very much.

The candle will be lit to symbolize the upward reach of their unequaled spirit. With complete disregard for their own safety, and despite the extreme hazards associated with their duties, they entered into danger to protect and rescue with exemplary courage. We honor them, to bring great credit upon themselves, their families and friends. Also, we as a community, honor and respects our heroes.

Please join us now as we bow our heads in a moment of silence.”

I was close enough to the stage to see the tears in the Colonel’s eyes. I know he has lost men he served with and loved. I felt the tears on my own cheeks as I sat silently, thinking of their sacrifice and of their families.


The evening ended when the family of Officer Doug Barney, shot down in the line of duty, came onto the stage. We stood up immediately and clapped with love and support in our hearts for widow Erika Barney, son Jack Barney and daughter Meredith Barney. Jack reached up and gave the Colonel a full body hug that lasted for so long I knew they had hugged before. The boy then turned, saw nearly a thousand people clapping for him, his sister and mother, and smiled.

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