Vail, Eagle County honor fallen emergency services personnel |

Vail, Eagle County honor fallen emergency services personnel

Emergency personnel pay tribute to those fallen in the line of duty during a short ceremony at the memorial on Monday at Freedom Park in Edwards. A procession of first responders and civilians with classic cars or motorcycles ran from Freedom Park to Donovan Park in Vail.
Chris Dillmann | |

The fallen

In chronological order.

• Oscar William Meyer, Eagle County Sheriff’s Deputy

End of watch: Nov. 2, 1936

• John Fletcher Clark, Eagle County Sheriff’s Deputy

End of watch: July 12, 1961

• Cruz Carbajal, Gypsum Fire Department

End of watch: Jan. 4, 1993

• Ryan Jay Cunningham, Vail Police Department

End of watch: May 6, 2001

• Tim Benway, air ambulance pilot

End of watch: Jan. 11, 2005

• Jamie Jursevics, Colorado State Patrol

End of watch: Nov. 15, 2015*

*Jursevics was killed on duty near Castle Rock but had been stationed in Eagle before her transfer there.

VAIL — Bonds run deep among those who serve the public. A big part of that bond is because people who serve in the military, police departments or fire and ambulance services all know their next day of work may be their last.

That’s why people in emergency-service agencies from up and down the Eagle River Valley rendezvoused Monday morning at Freedom Park in Edwards for the annual Ride in Remembrance, an event that honors those who didn’t come home from work.

The ride has been held for more than a decade, and always in May. In addition to a host of emergency vehicles, several locals also bring their motorcycles and classic cars to the event.

There are plenty of familiar faces on the ride. Dan Holtkamp, of Vail, has ridden every event, including the year there was perhaps 6 inches of new snow on the Ford Park playing fields.

“I’m just out to support them,” Holtkamp said. “It’s always a great ride.”

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Other riders Monday had personal connections to the emergency services.

Monday was the first year Steve Johnson participated in the ride — it was a fine morning and his work schedule allowed him to attend.

“I come from the law enforcement family,” Johnson said. “This is my way to pay my respects.”

More family ties

James and Leesa Hochmuth also have a family connection to the ride. Leesa is the management assistant to Vail Police Chief Dwight Henninger. James Hochmuth put in a career in the Navy.

“She supported me for all those years; now it’s my turn to support her,” he said.

Of all the personal connections between riders and those in uniform, few run deeper than Ethan Vroman’s.

Vroman, of the Greater Eagle Fire Protection District, is the son of former Gypsum Fire Chief Dave Vroman, who retired not too long ago. Vroman’s brother, Thad, is a firefighter in Rifle. There’s a sister who’s a veteran of the fire services and mom is a veteran, too.

Growing up in and around the fire station in Gypsum, Ethan came to know one of the fallen, volunteer firefighter Cruz Carbajal, who died in the line of duty in 1993.

“He’d have given you the shirt off his back,” Vroman said of Carbajal.

Gail McFall is a veteran of the U.S. Marines. She’s currently a code-enforcement officer in Vail and formerly served in the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office.

McFall was part of the color guard during Monday’s ceremony at Donovan Pavilion. She said the ceremony is difficult duty.

“You remember all the brothers and sisters who have passed,” McFall said. The day is even harder when a friend is among the fallen. In McFall’s case, that friend was Colorado State Patrol officer Jamie Jursevics. Jursevics was killed by a drunken driver during a traffic stop near Castle Rock in November 2015. But before moving to the Front Range, Jursevics had spent a couple of years stationed in Eagle.

The bonds run deep

The bonds run deep, and the ache is deep when those earthly bonds are broken.

During the ceremony, Vail Fire Chief Mark Novak said the emergency-services family is working to take better care of its own these days.

Besides the always-there awareness of obvious threats on the job, Novak said his department is working on more subtle threats, including chemical exposure after a fire, the family disruptions caused by working different shifts throughout the year and simply the stress of working a dangerous job.

“We have an obligation to look out for our own,” Novak said, urging people in the emergency services to keep their eyes and ears open for the possibility of co-workers in trouble.

Novak said that attention in nonemergency situations can be summed up with an old saying: “If it’s predictable, it’s preventable.”

But the Ride in Remembrance isn’t about honoring the dead, but about honoring those who get up in the morning — or the afternoon, for those on the night shift — not knowing what the next day of duty will bring.

Before the ride, Colorado State Patrol Captain Rich Duran summed up that attitude: “We celebrate those who do this every single day.”

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, or @scottnmiller.

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