An astounding number of first responders from agencies spanning the country were on hand to attend the memorial service for Kittitas County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Ryan Thompson. During the procession, departments from every corner of Washington were on hand, but the turnout was more expansive than from within the state. A large presence of officers from around the region was apparent, and if one looked hard enough, officers from even further were present at the event as well.

LOCAL FIRST RESPONDERS

Deputy Thompson’s memorial was not the first one Lake Wenatchee Fire & Rescue Battalion Chief Kelly McDaniels has attended in his 30 years on the force.

“You get to go to too many of these,” he said.

McDaniels said his agency attends services throughout the state for fallen officers from any affected first responding agency, and that any member of his agency can attend if they are available. He said the heavy turnout from citizens was a welcome sign of support.

“Coming into town, it was impressive,” he said. “A lot of people on the corners waiting for the procession. We got high-fives and thank yous, things like that.”

Brother and sisterhood are at the foundation of the law enforcement presence at Deputy Thompson’s memorial service, and McDaniels said that concept extends to all first responders lost in the line of duty.

“We don’t care what color your uniform is,” he said. “What color truck you use or if you have a gun or not. If this was a firefighter, these people would be here too, and vice-versa.”

ATTENDANCE FROM OUT-OF-STATE AGENCIES

Lincoln County, Montana Sheriff’s Deputy Brent Faulkner made the six-hour drive for Thursday’s memorial. It is his fourth memorial for a fallen officer he has attended during his career, the others being in Idaho and Montana. Although the policy varies from department to department, Faulkner said his agency, which has approximately 20 deputies has members that are actively involved with the honor guard.

“They’re willing to go out to these,” he said. “A lot of it depends though on if the administration has the funds available. You send a contingent the best that you can.”

Faulkner said that he felt the turnout at the memorial was fantastic and said part of the robust turnout could have to do with Ellensburg’s geographic location in the center of the state and near large departments on the West Side. Beyond this, he said it was clear that officers had come from much farther distances than himself.

“People are willing to go a long way to show their respect,” he said.

Although he has passed through town on his way to other destinations, it was Faulkner’s first time on the ground in Ellensburg. He said the element of community support that especially moved him was seeing students gather at their respective schools along the procession route to honor Deputy Thompson.

“It was really fantastic to see,” he said. “This is one more thing they need to learn about and understand and appreciate.”

INTERNATIONAL CONTINGENT

Burnaby, B.C. Royal Canadian Mounted Police Detachment Constable J.P. Dupont said the invitation for law enforcement members to attend the memorial was extended to Canadian agencies, and that his detachment wanted to send officers to the event. Although he wasn’t sure about the exact number of RCMP officers were at the memorial, he was one of four officers from his detachment.

“I made sure I could go,” he said.

Although this is Dupont’s first memorial service for a fallen officer in the United States, he has attended one on Vancouver Island. At that event, he said the reciprocity of support that spans the international border was clear.

“We had some law enforcement from the United States that had come to show their support as well at that time,” he said. “We’re all brothers and sisters here so we try to be there for each other.”

Dupont said for him, attending memorials for fallen officers puts the dangers of working as a first responder in perspective.

“A lot of our work isn’t glamorous,” he said. “It’s not like in the movies all the time, but we do put our life at risk. In some ways when we wear the uniform, we’re wearing a target for some of the people with wrong intentions. We’re all working together for people’s safety. I just appreciate being able to be arm-in-arm with all these other great women and men here.”

EAST COAST FRIENDS

New York Police Department Sargent Kevin Lynch is part of an organization called Brotherhood for the Fallen. He said the organization began in Chicago, Illinois in 2011, and now has chapters in Colorado, Massachusetts, Texas and New York.

Any time an officer is killed in armed combat, the NYPD chapter sends two officers from their department. In 2017, Lynch said the chapter sent 126 members to 49 funerals across the nation. At every funeral, the chapter donates $1,000 to the affected family. Lynch said this is paid for by annual dues collected from the 526 members of the chapter.

“We just think it’s important to be out here,” he said.

Upon seeing Ellensburg and Kittitas County for the first time, Lynch said it was clear that the community was both small and close-knit.

“This community has fabric woven through it,” he said. “A lot of places are just a place. But here, you get a sense of what the tapestry of everyone’s lives together are. It’s really special coming from a big city to see that. You can see from the amount of law enforcement that are here that there’s a bond here out in the Pacific Northwest. I have a new appreciation for what it’s like out here.”

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