The Atascosa County Sheriff’s Office held a beautiful memorial ceremony on Saturday, Oct. 12 honoring the 20 Year Anniversary of the Atascosa Ambush and the three law enforcement officers who lost their lives on that tragic night: Atascosa County Sheriff Deputy Thomas Monse, Atascosa County Sheriff Deputy Mark Stephenson and Texas DPS Trooper Terry Miller. Various law enforcement agencies came to pay their respects to these three wonderful men, their families and friends including ACSO, Texas DPS, Pleasanton PD, Jourdanton PD, San Antonio PD and S.W.A.T. and Atascosa County EMS.
The ceremony began with a dispatcher call-out for a 30 second moment of silence followed by a performance by the Texas Department of Public Safety Pipes and Drums. The colors were presented by the Texas Department of Public Safety color guard.
ACSO Major Matthew Miller introduced the Atascosa County Law Enforcement Officers Association Chaplain Scotty Smith who opened the ceremony with a few words and a prayer.
“I brought up a road flare with me. I had a really great friend, John Eric, who used to light a road flare on this night to help remember his friends who had fallen during that time. There’s several things about a road flare. It burns so bright and it protects so many people on the road. I’ll never look at it the same again. It reminds me to take time to not only remember what happened here, but what our officers do every day. They’re a shining example of the best of who we are and I’m grateful for that.”
Three officers, each representing three different law enforcement agencies who took part and witnessed that fatal night, spoke on behalf of Mark, Thomas and Terry. The first was Pleasanton Police Chief Ronald Sanchez.
“What an incredible showing of love by this community to these wonderful families who have suffered greatly. I know I speak for everyone here when I say I wish October 12, 1999 never happened. Sheriff David Soward said it best when he said the only way that this tragedy could have been avoided was if these three brave men had not responded to that call. To avoid someone’s cry for help was not in these three men’s genetic buildups. If someone was asking for help, they would be there. Today, we honor the memories of [these three men], and we also honor their families for they have suffered greatly. But to these families, we also want them to know that the citizens of Atascosa County and the great State of Texas have not forgotten your great sacrifice.”
Representing Texas DPS Highway Patrol was Captain Steven Tellez who reminded the family members and the community that the ultimate sacrifice of Terry, Thomas and Mark were not forgotten.
“If we just look around, we can see our family, our law enforcement family and community that will come together to support one another. As we remember this anniversary, we will remember the officers who brought us together and made us a bigger and stronger family. ”
Atascosa County Sheriff
David Soward was the last to speak at the memorial offering words of encouragement, strength and love to the families of Mark, Thomas and Terry. He thanked everyone for taking the time out of their day to come and recognize this solemn occasion.
“October 12, 1999 is a day that is etched into all of our hearts at the Atascosa County Sheriff’s Office. For those of us who lived through that tragic night, we are reminded on a daily basis of these heroes. We should never forget that all of us eventually went home the very next day, but for Thomas, Mark and Terry, they did not. I have worked in law enforcement for 44 years and believe me, there is no greater burden than to bear the loss of a fallen officer, a friend, a hero that gave their life for their community.”
He added we should also remember today the brave men who were on the scene early that night risking their lives while coming under gunfire: Pleasanton Police Officer Louis Tudyk and retired Federal Officer Carl Fischer (both wounded); Archie Peña, Oscar DeLaCruz and all of the law enforcement officers who arrived on scene.
Sheriff Soward ended with his favorite bible verse, John 15:13, that says, “No greater love has none than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
The Texas Department of Public Safety Pipes and Drums closed out the ceremony with the playing of Military Taps followed by Amazing Grace.
The community of Atascosa County will never forget October 12, 1999.