Almost every day I drive by a memorial. I could tell from the road the markers were for fallen UHP officers, but that was all I knew. I had an idea the other day that I should stop by, snap a picture or two for my "Picture Of The Day" feature and with the upcoming holiday, it all seemed perfect. I'm glad I did.
From a distance the crosses don't appear as large as they actually are, but as I got out of my car today and approached the massive structures, the size adequately honored the fallen officers. I don't know why I thought I would, but I didn't recognize either name embossed on either cross. But, living in this incredible technology age, I assumed I could do an internet search and learn more of these gentlemen. I was right.
I searched for Trooper George Dee Rees first. His story (as are all the officers whose name if found on similar markers throughout our state) is both tragic and fascinating. Officer Rees passed away due to a traffic accident in 1960. Because of a misunderstanding Officer Rees left a roadblock set up to catch two car thieves and died when the two felons driving the stolen car hit him head-on. The force of the impact sent Officer Rees's car back 80 feet. He was only 41-years old. I found two websites that provided information on what happened: Site 1, and Site 2. I don't know anyone who knew Trooper Rees, but he has a kind smile.
The second memorial marker is for Trooper Lt. Thomas Rettberg, and I vaguely remember the passing of this officer. Officer Rettberg died in a helicopter accident after a 25-year career in law enforcement. While on a training run a piece of the helicopter he was in fell off which caused the craft to slam into the ground, killing both Officer Rettberg and a maintenance mechanic Thomas Bohoravitch. A pilot of 22 years, Officer Rettberg was cremated and his ashes were spread over Mt. Timpanogos. Information about Officer Rettberg can be found here: Site 1, and Site 2.
These men (and others...) died while serving us, the public. This weekend we turn our attention to those who gave their lives so that we can continue to do so. I don't know these men, but I feel somehow connected to them. Maybe it's because my father was a police officer...maybe it's because their ultimate sacrifice is on display for me to see and hopefully, appreciate. I should stop by and check out memorials more often. I'm a better man for knowing a little bit more about these men.