Law enforcement officers and members of the public — many of them wearing blue roses — gathered at the Old Montana Prison in Deer Lodge Wednesday afternoon to honor peace officers who died in the line of duty and to express gratitude for all officers who serve the public every day.
Pastor Rob Nedbalek noted that he was thankful that there was no inductee into the Law Enforcement Memorial Hall of Honor this year, as no officers were killed in the line of duty in Montana in 2018.
But Nedbalek also acknowledged that Montana law enforcement has not gone unscathed of late, offering a prayer for the recovery of Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Wade Palmer who was seriously injured on March 15, when he was shot several times while responding to a call.
Jodi Moore, the widow of Broadwater Deputy Sheriff Mason Moore, recalled her painful memory of May 16, 2017, when she was awakened at 4:30 a.m. by a knock on her door. Thinking her husband had forgotten his key she looked out the window, saw officers and the Sheriff and knew something terrible had happened, she told attendees of Wednesday's ceremony.
“The hardest thing I’ve ever done was two hours later when I woke the children and told them that Daddy is with God and would not be coming home," Moore said.
Tearing up, she added, “It is a painful memory, and I don’t want any other wife, mother, child or friend to have to go through it.
“People often ask, ‘How are you doing?’" she continued. "I tell them OK, but the truth is I am not OK. I am heartbroken, devastated, sad, and it is an open wound. I am angry that law enforcement officers do not have the support, the financial means and equipment to keep them safe, and I will continue to fight for this for him (Mason), in order to protect fellow officers and future officers.”
Moore continued, “I am so appreciative of the honor, respect and love shown our family. The people of Montana have shown us what love looks like. Thank you for all your love and support.”
The Powell County High School select choir sang “Amazing Grace” as storm clouds gathered. Following the benediction, the Deer Lodge Veterans Honor Guard fired a 21-gun salute, taps echoed in the courtyard and the flag was lowered to half-mast.
When the ceremony was over, officers and other attendees walked to the Law Enforcement Memorial where Moore placed her husband’s portrait on the Wall of Honor, joining 128 other Montana peace officers who died in the line of duty.