The Thomas R. Havins Unit, a Brownwood correctional facility, hosted a Memorial Service on Thursday morning in remembrance of correctional employees killed in the line of duty around the country.
The annual service is held each year during National Correctional Officers and Employees Week. Held under an awning on the facility’s front lawn, the service featured prayers, songs and speeches from T.R. Havins officers and officials. Dozens of officers, employees, families and local leaders were in attendance.
T.R. Havins warden Keith Gorsuch began the proceedings with a few welcoming remarks. He explained that National Correctional Officers Week was born in 1984 with a proclamation from President Ronald Reagan.
“Today’s memorial service … serves as a special time set aside for reflection, and allows us to join together to remember those who are gone from us,” Gorsuch said. “We respect and honor each fallen officer and carry their memories in high esteem for the work they have done and the impact each one has had.”
Pastor Jason Studdard led the assembly in an opening invocation, and his wife Jodi performed the national anthem. Jason Studdard sang three more songs during the ceremony, interspersed between prayers and readings, including “Go Rest High on That Mountain” and “Heaven Was Needing a Hero.”
Later, several T.R. Havins officers assisted in setting the Missing Officer Table, which is set with various symbolic items including a red rose, a sheathed sword, lemon slices, a pinch of salt, an inverted glass and a Bible. An empty chair by the table represents the fallen.
The ceremony culminated with the roll call of correctional officers killed since the beginning of last year. A short biography was read for Mari Anne Johnson, who was attacked and killed at the Robertson Unit in Abilene last July.
Sgt. Andrew Henderson tolled a bell after each name was read, and Dr. John Dunn played “Taps” before Studdard ended the ceremony with a closing prayer.
Gorsuch said the memorial service is an important time of remembrance each year. “It gives us an opportunity to reflect,” he said, “and to remember those individuals who pay that ultimate sacrifice. Each and every day we have the greatest correctional staff in the world who walk through these doors, who put their life on the line each and every day to manage those individuals who are incarcerated.”
Gorsuch encouraged the community to thank its correctional officers. “These employees, the people who choose to work in corrections, are often times the unsung heroes of law enforcement,” he said. “They don’t get near enough praise. I just ask the community if they know somebody who makes the sacrifice to work inside of a correctional facility … take the time to shake their hand and tell them thank you.”