Texas DPS Troopers and supporters will mount their bicycles and honor law enforcement members who have paid the ultimate sacrifice on the DPS Memorial Ride this Thursday, May 15 at 9 a.m.
Officers from around the country gathered in Washington, DC this week – including Jourdanton Chief of Police Eric Kaiser – to honor those who have died in the line of duty during National Police Week.
DPS Trooper James P. Colunga felt the need to honor these officers even further. Colunga had participated in the Police Unity Tour -“We Ride for Those Who Died”– to raise awareness as well as raise funds for the National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial and Museum. He brought the concept to a local level and the DPS Memorial Ride was born. “As a participant in the Police Unity Tour for five years, I believed that funds could be raised in Texas using the same principles. The yearly DPS Memorial Ride event initially raised monies for two funds,” said Colunga.
Funds raised will benefit the DPS Memorial as well as DPS Disability Fund. Not only do they honor the fallen, they assist those who are in need after insurance fails. “We created the DPS Memorial Fund to raise money to assist in building a new memorial for our fallen DPS officers in Austin. We also created the DPS Trooper Disability Fund which gives financial assistance to any DPS officer and his family where insurance does not cover, Colunga continued.
In the last five years this fund has assisted over twenty officers and their families. They strive each year to gain more financial support and sponsorship to enlarge this fund to assist all officers in financial need throughout the state of Texas.
This year, Pleasanton will be included in their three-day Challenge Ride with a memorial service at the new Freedom Center in downtown Pleasanton. The ceremony will honor DPS Trooper Terry Wayne Miller, Atascosa County Deputies Thomas Monse Jr. and Mark Stephenson. These three men were brutally killed in an ambush after responding to a bogus 9-1-1 call on October 12, 1999. Family, friends and fellow officers will also be honored as well as a flag ceremony. In attendance will be Memorial Ride President Dub Gillum and a representative from Senator Judith Zaffirini’s office.
Afterwards, the riders will then be escorted by DPS as they travel to San Antonio. A ceremony will be held at the DPS District office on Thursday, May 16, honoring Sgt. William J. Kuhnle, Trooper Ralph G. Zerta who both died May 21, 1989 and Sgt. Paul Hernandez who died October 4, 2012. The group will then ride to San Marcos. There, Trooper Randall Vetter’s memorial marker on I-35 will be rededicated. The Challenge riders will be escorted to Austin to end day two.
The 6th annual DPS Memorial Ride will be held Saturday, May 17 at the DPS headquarters following a scheduled route. At the end, the flag will then be placed by the Honor Guard across the top of the Memorial Wall in honor of all who have died in the line of duty.
“As a veteran DPS Trooper I have known some of the officers that are named on our Memorial Wall. I have also noticed the need for financial assistance by my fellow officers and their families. Like some officers who have family members that have been diagnosed with cancer in which the funds gives financial assistance where insurance fails to cover. Raising monies to enhance the Trooper Disability Fund is a goal we strive for every year through the DPS Memorial Ride event, said Colunga.
Those who wish to make a tax-deductible donation may send them to: DPS Memorial Ride, P.O. Box 303, Ennis, TX 75120.