As I rushed out of my son’s talent show on a Saturday afternoon headed to Salt Lake, my mind was filled with emotions. Major Kuehn had just told me that Trooper Aaron Beesley was seriously injured in a rescue mission gone badly.
I PRAYED TO GOD AARON WOULD BE OKAY AND THAT HE would be able to return home to his family. I listened to the radio tac channel and heard despair in Sheriff Winder’s voice. I quickly called Sheriff Winder and he told me that Aaron was not going to make it. He said, “Danny, I am so sorry to tell you that your Trooper has passed away.” Those are the words I have always dreaded hearing. The love that we all feel for our brothers and sisters in the brown shirts is very much like our own family members. All we want is for them to be successful, safe and to get home each and every night to bless their families.
What happened the hours, days and week after has been truly amazing. Sheriff Winder, a great man, took charge at the incident command post where Aaron would be taken and placed in a vehicle. Sheriff Winder set up an officer honor corridor and all saluted as they carried Aaron to the car. He then organized a police escort for our fallen hero. What a great tribute the Sheriff’s office and Section 4 Troopers showed Aaron that day.
After learning that Aaron would not be taken to the hospital, the Commissioner, Major Kuehn and I rushed to Ogden to meet the Beesley family. I had a lot of time to think about what I was going to say and how difficult this was going to be. When I arrived, I was greeted by the most incredible family I have ever met. They were surrounded by Lieutenant Lee Perry and Captain Doug McCleve and were assembled on the front porch. The family shared a perspective on life that was truly inspiring. They were shedding a few tears and sharing laughs and stories about their love for Aaron. Their family unity pulled them through the difficult times and they have never wavered in their faith. Every time they speak they talk about the joy of life and how important it is to live it to the fullest. They were an absolute comfort to me and so many others.
On Sunday we got word that Aaron was going to be transported from the Medical Examiner’s office in Salt Lake to the mortuary in Ogden. The escort started out with two Troopers,
but by the time it reached the mortuary in Ogden many others had joined the motorcade to show their respect for a fallen brother. It was absolutely inspiring to see the long line of Troopers driving down I-15 with lights activated and the public observing. The family was waiting at the mortuary as the many troopers pulled in and lined up in a corridor to carry their brother into the funeral home. From the time Aaron died and until he was buried he was constantly protected by a brother or sister wearing a brown shirt. Lieutenant Chris Simmons put out the request and it was filled within hours from Troopers all over the State volunteering to sit with their brother who gave his all.
Calls came from around the State and Nation in support of Trooper Beesley. Local Chiefs, Sheriff’s and Federal partners bent over backwards for the UHP to cover shifts, help with the funeral and send support. Ten States sent representatives from their Departments to honor Aaron. Not only did we receive support from outside, but the UHP family stepped up in a big way. We had many Troopers cover shifts, organize the funeral and spend countless hours making sure that the funeral went off without a hitch. The organization of the event was second to none and one that truly honored Aaron and the Beesley family.
On one of the days following Aaron’s death, a young lady came into my office and identified herself as one of those Aaron had saved on Mt. Olympus. She brought a picture of Aaron as he stepped off the helicopter to rescue her. It was the last
picture of Aaron ever taken while he was alive. She must have been inspired to take that picture as it was absolutely perfect. She explained the circumstances which placed her in the predicament she faced. She had reached the cliffs edge by mistake and was physically exhausted and could not take another step. They called 911 and the helicopter was dispatched. Aaron got the call while doing work around his house and jumped
into action. He never hesitated when a life was on the line. As he spotted the stranded individuals, he stepped off the helicopter and, as the young lady said, “had a huge smile on his face and comforted us in our time of need.” He loaded them one by one on the helicopter and made sure they got off the mountain safe. Those were the last actions of a hero.
What is most inspiring about Aaron is that he conducted this same type of lifesaving rescue and service many times. His contributions as a member of the SERT team, Field Section Trooper, Highway Safety staff member, or Firefighter cannot be counted. He did not seek fame or fortune but simply wanted to serve.
When I talk about Aaron I tell people that he lived more in thirty-four years then most do in ninety. It is not about the number of years we live, but the way we live during those years. Aaron gave us thirteen years, but what he did in those thirteen years is more than some give in thirty. He answered the call each time the phone rang. He gave 110% every minute he worked and he served each one of us very well.
There is no fame or glory, only the internal rewards of knowing that you are making society better. You are my heroes and I thank you for keeping my family safe and for making Utah a better place to live.
At the memorial cross dedication in St. George, Robert Beesley, Aaron’s father, told me how impressed he was with the UHP family. He told me he had no idea how close the UHP family was and that brothers and sisters would come from around the State to honor Aaron the way they had. He was touched with the funeral, honor guard, motors, a sea of brown shirts, many UHP cars, other agencies, Governor Herbert, security details on the homes, and the private sector who came out to show support. To have a man like Honorary Colonel Don Ipson raise a cross with his son’s name on it for the world travelers to see was such an honor to Robert. The outpouring of support from men like Don Ipson, the Honorary Colonels, Honoring Heroes, 1033 foundation, and so many others is so impressive and should give us all great comfort that there are many watching out for us.
Lastly, to each of you who continually go out each and every night and stand on top of the wall and watch for danger so others don’t have to, you are truly inspiring. You go out on a daily basis, as Aaron did, and make those sacrifices. There is no fame or glory, only the internal rewards of knowing that you are making society better. You are my heroes and I thank you for keeping my family safe and for making Utah a better place to live.
Colonel Danny Fuhr
Utah Highway Patrol Superintendent