BY JOHN AND BARBARA MITCHELL, HONORARY TROOPERS
Nestled in the magnificent Utah Rockies, the Zermatt Resort in Heber hosted the Utah Department of Public Safety’s annual “Awards Banquet” Wednesday evening, October 5, 2016.
Its theme was: pursuing excellence. Over 475 were in attendance, including those from the Department of Public Safety (DPS) and the Utah Highway Patrol (UHP). Other attendees included Utah Lt. Governor Spencer J. Cox, dignitaries from the Utah Legislature and Public Safety agencies’ personnel from around the State such as the St. George City Police Department and its Unified Fire Authority.
The UHP Honor Guard commenced the event with the “Posting of Colors” and the “Pledge of Allegiance.” Christian Rigby, son of Wasatch County Chief Deputy Jared Rigby, struck an uplifting patriotic note with his rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner.” Colonel Michael S. Rapich of UHP solemnly saluted the fallen Troopers remembered at the “Table for One,” describing its symbolic items, e.g., the white tablecloth expressing the purity of the fallen Troopers’ intentions and its candle expressing the “Light of Hope.” In their memory, Colonel Rapich asked those gathered for a “Moment of Silence.”
Next, Jed Crittenden, DPS Awards Committee Chairman, welcomed the attendees and paid tribute to Utah’s 139 officers killed over the years of Utah’s Public Safety history. “No amount of time can ever heal our deep sense of loss over these fallen heroes. We remember them proudly tonight and forever in our hearts,” he said. Dinner was then served.
After all were served and everyone was enjoying dinner, Jed introduced DPS Commissioner Keith D. Squires. KSL TV Channel 5 Newscaster Alex Cabrero was the emcee who announced the awards. The panoply of awards included Public Safety Medal of Excellence, Distinguished Service Medal, Utah Highway Patrol Trooper of the Year, Utah Highway Patrol Association Honorary Trooper, Life Saving Award, Years of Service, Medal of Valor, to name a few.
The enthusiastic applause for these distinguished Public Safety awardees serving our communities was a palpable sign of the attendees’ heartfelt thanks. A hand-clapping, standing ovation was given to Mrs. Erika Barney, accompanied by her daughter Meredith and son Jack (Jacob) when they took the stage to receive the Medal of Valor on behalf of her fallen husband and their father, Unified Police Department Officer Douglas S. Barney. Responding to an auto accident on Sunday morning, January I 7, Officer Barney was caught in a deadly shoot out and killed by a crazed drug addict.
The Awards Banquet was a roller coaster of emotions: admiration, inspiration and pride, but, sadness for those who lost loved ones like the Barney family. Heart-warming emotions welled up as the attendees rose in admiration, applauded heartily, some teary-eyed, as three-year old Coleman Ross climbed the stage stairs. Last July 12, Coleman was found lifeless at the bottom of a pool in Centerville, Utah. Through their quick actions, two citizens and sisters Celia and Leah Elam and Trooper Chamberlin Neff pulled Coleman’s lifeless body from the pool. Using their natural instincts and medical training, they cleared his airway and resuscitated him. Yes, they received their awards, but, their real recognition was to have given life back to Coleman and share the stage with him on this momentous evening.
Jed arranged for Barbara and me to be seated at the table with awardees Rich and Sharyl Noble and several staff members representing KSL, including Emcee Alex Cabrero. DPS partnered with KSL this year, and, through that partnership, KSL gave voice to DPS message, namely, the admirable work DPS Troopers and Staff do daily to make each of our lives safer. Without KSL’s voice, this important message would not have been received so widely among Utah’s communities. The special Beyond the Badge Award, recognizes KSL’s unique support of DPS’s dedication to, and fulfillment of, its commitment to protecting our communities as well as underscoring this year’s theme: Pursuing Excellence.
Civic-minded Rich (a former Utah Highway Patrol Trooper) and Sharyl have been strong supporters of DPS and the Honoring Heroes Foundation (HHF), a 501-c-3 charitable organization which raises funds for the fallen and wounded of UHP Troopers, for their families and for DPS employees in financial need. Over the years, Sharyl has sought and received donations from businesses and companies in Salt Lake City: art work, sports equipment, home goods, etc. Rich dutifully picks up the donations and stores them in their garage until they are auctioned off at the annual “Beehive Drive Gala” (formerly called the Utah Fast Pass Banquet) as well as for the HHF Motorcycle Ride held annually.
Significant amounts of the monies raised from these auctions are given to DPS and HHF. Rich’s and Sharyl’s charitable efforts, personal time and even their own money include assistance to other charities. This evening they were awarded new titles: Honorary Troopers. “Rich and I were honored beyond words. To be in that room with so many wonderful, brave and generous officers and Public Safety staff was an honor for both of us. We love the Troopers and all of the men and women working in Public Safety behind the scenes. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts,” commented Sharyl when we asked about hers and Rich’s awards. Rich and Sharyl like all the distinguished award recipients this evening are true representatives of the saying: It’s only by reaching for the stars that we raise ourselves as high as possible.