Hightower Unit in Dayton remembers fallen peers at memorial service

A gun salute was carried out on Tuesday, May 3, at a Correctional Officers Memorial Service at the Hightower Unit in Dayton.

The names of 43 new people added to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Roll Call were read during a solemn Correctional Officers Memorial Service on Tuesday, May 3, at the Hightower Unit in Dayton. The names read are TDCJ employees who died from April 2021 to April 2022 in the line of duty, many from COVID-19 related illnesses.

Hightower Unit Warden Howeth said TDCJ employees were at a heightened risk during the pandemic, which resulted in the loss of lives.

“We are essential personnel. These employees had to keep working,” Howeth said.

Hightower Unit Warden Howeth, Texas Ranger Brandon Bess and TDCJ Regional Director Maricia Jackson attended the Correctional Officers Memorial Service on May 3 at the Hightower Unit in Dayton.

Howeth said Tuesday’s memorial service was an opportunity to make sure the correctional officers will not be forgotten.

“The memorial service honors those who gave the ultimate sacrifice,” he said.

Tuesday’s ceremony was the second memorial service held at the Hightower Unit since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. In the first year of the pandemic, the event was pushed off for a year, followed by a smaller event in 2021. At this year’s event, dozens of people were in attendance, including Texas Ranger Brandon Bess, the keynote speaker.

“While the number of officers killed each year is up dramatically, the number of felonious assaults against officer continues to rise, too,” Bess said. “In 2020 we also faced a new danger that no one ever expected – COVID-19 – and you all lost many of your brothers and sisters to that devastating disease, most recently with the loss of Correctional Officer 5 Lonnie Anderson Jr. on March 6, 2022.”

Bess quoted a recent newspaper article that referred to peace officers as “soldiers in a war that never ends,” adding that he believes it to be a good analogy.

“There are currently over 800,000 [peace] officers in the United States. Across this country, on an almost daily basis, officers are involved in life or death struggles that make the OK Corral pale in comparison. The OK Corral was a different day and time and police may have been looked at differently,” Bess said. “CNN did not cover the OK Corral, but everyone knows about it and knows who the Earps and Clantons were. The FBI shooting in Miami and the North Hollywood Bank Robbery were front page for a couple of days and forgotten. This is the reality, and if you think I have painted a picture of gloom, that was not my intention. You officers do what you do, you choose your station in life and few would trade places with you.”

He reminded the correctional officers in attendance that they, like peace officers, deserve the support and gratitude of citizens of this country for standing in the gap and preventing more harm from coming their way.

“For you officers, there is no greater responsibility or higher calling. You have a sacred, solemn duty to live worthy and to conduct yourself with honor and chivalry as did those knights of old,” he said. “Let us never forget the sacrifice of those we have lost. God bless you all and God bless Texas,” Bess said.

As Taps is played, a riderless horse is walked through the Hightower Unit grounds. The riderless horse ceremony, often seen in funerals, is a symbol of a fallen soldier or peace officer.

Added to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Roll Call this year are:

  • Correctional Officer Josa Ruiz, Hutchins State Jail
  • Correctional Officer Lonnie Johnson, Coffield Unit
  • Administrative Assistant Curtis Wollam, private facility
  • Correctional Officer John Broadaway, Rufe Jordan Unit
  • Food Service Manager Darrell Avery, Hutchins State Jail
  • Correctional Officer Johnathan Glover, Torres Unit
  • RN Tammy Martinez, Michael Unit
  • Correctional Officer Alfredo Urbina, Ney Unit
  • Correctional Officer Carlos Moreno, Alfred Hughes Unit
  • Clerk Armando Rodriguez
  • Equipment Operator Adrian Harding
  • Correctional Officer Mark Loecken, Huntsville Unit
  • Correctional Officer James Dood, Bridgeport Correctional Center
  • Parole Officer Trainee Ty’lsha Harper, Parole Division
  • Correctional Officer Kevin Dupree, Powledge Unit
  • Administrative Assistant Amy Mashburn, RPD Sex Offender Rehabilitation
  • Correctional Officer Garland Chaney, Skyview Unit
  • Correctional Officer Scott Collora, Luther Unit
  • Administrative Assistant Theresa Carter, Parole Division Fort Worth
  • Correctional Officer Melissa Maldonado, Garza West Unit
  • Correctional Officer Connell Foreman, Skyview Unit
  • Correctional Officer Charles R. Hughes, Holiday Unit
  • Correctional Officer Cleadas Sherman, Travis County State Jail
  • Inmate Record Clerk Lacy J. Bennett, Alfred Hughes Unit
  • Human Resources Specialist Ollen Halsey, Training and Leader Development Training, Huntsville
  • Correctional Officer Chris Watson, Hodge Unit
  • Sgt. Shad Hammon, Clemens Unit
  • Correctional Officer Jose A. Hernandez, Torres Unit
  • Correctional Officer Echo Rodriguez, Garza West Unit
  • Food Service Manager Codie Whitley-Turner, Huntsville Unit
  • Parole Officer Huey Prymus III, Tyler District Parole Office
  • Correctional Officer Glenn R. Skeens, Alfred Hughes Unit
  • Correctional Officer Honorato Antones, James V. Alred Unit
  • Laundry Manager Lakeisha Brantley, Plane State Jail
  • Sgt. Joe Olivares, Connally Unit
  • Clerk Whitney Poindexter, Duncan Unit
  • Human Resources Manager VaShunna Jefferson, Huntsville
  • Dental Assistant Suchada Nordell, Robertson Unit-Texas Tech
  • Correctional Officer Daniel Giorgi, Dominguez Unit
  • Administrative Assistant Mary Martinez, Middleton Unit
  • Inventory and Store Specialist Bill Ball, Huntsville
  • Certified Medication Aid Shantee Brunson, Melton Crain Unit-UTMB
  • Correctional Officer Jimmy Garcia, Bill Clements Unit

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