Gwenn Murie McCaleb placed a single red rose on a memorial wall, then kissed her fingers and pressed them against a plaque bearing her husband’s name. The Department of Public Safety officer accompanying her gave a salute, and, as they walked away, she cried a little.
“Every time there’s a service like this, it’s like just yesterday that it happened,” said McCaleb, whose husband, DPS Officer William H. Murie, 31, was killed Nov. 19, 1980, when was struck by a passing vehicle while assisting at a crash on Interstate 17 near New River.
“The tears flow just like they always did,” McCaleb said.
Family members, friends and fellow officers met outside DPS headquarters the morning of May 4 for the annual Fallen Officer Memorial Ceremony.
The observance gives surviving family members a chance to continue honoring the sacrifice of their loved ones, McCaleb said.
“When they say we will never forget, it’s like an acting out of that promise,” she said. “We widows, we families, never feel that our loved ones died in vain.”
To remember their loved ones, family members and DPS officers placed 27 roses, one for each of the fallen, on top of two walls with memorial plaques displaying their names. The roll call was accompanied by the sound of bagpipes playing “Amazing Grace,” followed by a helicopter flyover.
This year’s ceremony was the first time Officer Bruce W. Harrolle, an air rescue paramedic, was honored. Harrolle, 36, was killed Oct. 13, 2008 when he was struck by a helicopter’s rotor blades during the rescue of two stranded hikers in the Sedona area.
“I had prayed to be the first DPS director to get through a term without adding a name to this wall,” DPS Director Roger Vanderpool said. “But it was not to be.”
Gov. Jan Brewer said Harrolle and the 26 others dedicated themselves to protect the public.
“Every day that they went to work; every day that they put on their uniforms and strapped on their equipment; every act of courage they performed in the line of duty, made them the heroes that they are,” she said.
Jan Blaser-Upchurch of Tucson was there to remember her husband, Sgt. John M. Blaser, 36, who was killed along with Officer David G. Gabrielli, 43, on Aug. 31, 1990, when they were hit by a drunk driver while investigating a fatal crash. Blaser had celebrated his third wedding anniversary a month before.
“My life changed forever,” Blaser-Upchurch said. “It’s something I never expected to happen. I was just devastated.”
She said she attends the memorial ceremony every year because it’s important to continue to honor her late husband.
“It’s a wonderful way to remember officers, no matter how many years it is, because we always remember them,” Blaser-Upchurch said. “They’re always in our hearts.”