EDINBURG — The bell rang 19 times.
Each strike represented a police officer from Texas who fell in the line of duty in the last year, as state Rep. Terry Canales called out their names at a memorial ceremony for law enforcement that DHR Health held Wednesday afternoon. Not many people were there to hear the chimes in person, though.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the event, which observes National Police Week, was live-streamed for the public. A couple dozen people were present in the conference room, where everyone except bagpipe players were wearing masks.
The national list of fallen officers, called the 2020 Roll Call of Heroes, includes a total of 307 officers, of which 19 are from Texas, two from Rio Grande Valley: Cpl. Jose Luis “Speedy” Espericueta of Mission, and Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Moises Sanchez.
Mission police officer Espericueta, an 18-year law enforcement veteran, was shot and killed June 2019 while responding to a call for assistance by a fellow officer; Sanchez died Aug. 2019 after sustaining gunshot wounds while responding to a car accident in April that year.
“This is a stunning number: 19,” Canales said at the podium. “It’s a number that should truly give us pause. Nineteen brave officers, men and women, whose backgrounds and stories are as diverse as our nation itself; who gave their lives to protect and serve the safety of our community, and defend our freedoms.”
The event included a 21 gun salute and a presentation of colors by the Edinburg Police Department’s honor guard. Yvonne Sanchez said the taps and bagpipe performances recalled memories of her husband’s funeral in September last year.
“The gun salute, the band, it all takes me back to that day,” Sanchez said. “Just hearing them play brings back memories… I just miss him.”
“Yvonne said this while looking and caressing at a frame of her husband, which was given to her at the event. The picture displayed a portrait of Moises, and read: “We Remember Our Fallen.”
She celebrated her first Mother’s Day as a single parent on Sunday, and said as Aug. 24, her husband’s death anniversary, comes closer, she misses him more.
“I felt lonely because he would always get me stuff, and now that he’s not around, it is just different for every occasion,” she said through tears.
However, Yvonne said Wednesday’s memorial service served as a reminder to her that she, in fact, is far from alone.
“Listening to everyone honor not only my husband, but all the other fallen soldiers, all the families going through the same thing as I am, and for them to be remembered and honored, it feels rewarding for us,” Yvonne said. “Knowing there are people out there caring and thinking of us is comforting.”
Dr. Carlos Cardenas, chairman of the Texas Medical Association, represented the city of Edinburg by receiving a certificate of honor, and a flag that flew over the Texas Capitol in Austin for Mission police officer Espericueta.
“If it was not for them and for their sacrifice, and for those who continue to lay their lives down every single day, we wouldn’t enjoy the freedoms that we have and the community that we have,” Cardenas said. “I can’t think of a more solemn event. Everything that we stand for as a health system, I think everything we stand for as a community, is what this is all really about.”
Canales emphasized that though there is no action that could be done to make up for the loss of an officer, he would do his best to honor them.
“Although there is no speech and no ceremony that we can give or hold that can ease your pain — no tribute, no salute — tonight we gather virtually together to honor the courage (of these officers) and to fill your hearts with our gratitude,” Canales said.
DPS Regional Director Victor Escalon received Trooper Sanchez’s certificate and flag.
DPS Sgt. Maria Montalvo said she was there to honor all fallen officers, especially Moises, who was her co-worker. She said she remembered him as “an excellent state trooper … a hard worker, a good worker.”
Montalvo said she has wanted to be a law enforcement officer since she was 4-years-old, despite always knowing the sacrifices and risks of the job.
“We put on our uniforms and we wear it with pride, but at the same time we’re mindful that at any moment, our lives can be taken away,” she said. “It’s a career that we have chosen, and we do it with a lot of honor and pride … I am proud to be a Texas state trooper.”
She added that the memorial event symbolized the working relationship between local medical fields and law enforcement.
“The medical field has always been there to support us, and vice versa,” Montalvo said. “It’s a team effort, whether we assist local PD or county officers, at the end of the day, we all work as a team.”