Rachel Walker stood with her with husband Michael and children Faith and Sara Grace with other mourners at the Peace Officer’s Memorial outside the chapel on FLETC’s campus. Walker’s father, border protection agent Darrel J. Windhaus, died Dec. 29, 2013 of a heart attack while in the line of duty. Windhaus was one of three names added to the Peace Officer’s Memorial. (Brunswick News)
By Michael Hall, The Brunswick News
With the memory of her father’s death still fresh in her memory, Rachel Walker stood with her family and wiped a tear from her eye as three U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents fired three times each to honor his memory at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center’s Peace Officer’s Memorial Ceremony Wednesday.
Walker’s father, border protection agent Darrel J. Windhaus, died Dec. 29, 2013 of a heart attack while in the line of duty after boarding a ship at Brownsville Seaport in Brownsville, Texas.
Windhaus was one of three names added to the Peace Officer’s Memorial outside the chapel on FLETC’s campus that memorializes graduates of the center’s Glynco campus who lost their lives while on the job.
Other names added were Sgt. Robert Baron of the National Park Service and Prisons Senior Officer Eric Williams of the Bureau of Prisons. Baron was killed in New
Mexico during blizzard-like conditions when he was hit by a moving vehicle while assisting a motorist. Williams was killed when he was attacked and stabbed in the line of duty.
For Walker, who drove overnight to the ceremony from Tennessee with husband Michael and children Faith and Sara Grace, expressing how she felt to see her father’s name on the wall with 198 others who died in service since 1970 was difficult.
“There are no words to describe the emotion that you have for the honoring of your family member like this,” Rachel Walker said following the ceremony.
Since her father’s death, Rachel Walker has befriended the widow of another fallen agent, Erica Aguilar, through a benefit bike ride. In addition to getting an etching of her father’s name on the wall, Walker also got an etching of Erica Aguilar’s husband’s name, Luis Aguilar, to take back to her.
“You’re instantly bonded through the loss of a loved one,” Rachel Walker said.
She reinforced comments made earlier in the morning by the ceremony’s keynote speaker, Judson Murdock, director of the border protection’s Houston field office,
that the job of border protection agents is becoming increasingly dangerous.
“There are men and women who are putting their lives on the line for our safety,” she said.
Prior to the reading of the names on the FLETC memorial and of those from state and local law enforcement who died in the line of duty, Murdock spoke directly to the new trainees sitting inside the chapel.
“You have a dangerous job,” Murdock said, pleading with them to mitigate the danger. “Do everything you can to stay safe.”
He also touted the bravery of all who serve in federal law enforcement.
“Without the sacrifices, our freedoms would no longer exist, ”Murdock said.
FLETC Director Connie Patrick said the annual ceremony is more than just a reflection of those who were lost. It is also a reminder of the importance of the job of the training center and those being trained.
“It reminds us as trainees that we are renewed in our commitment, ”Patrick said.
She said doing everything possible to prepare those who come through one of the federal training centers for anything they may face in the field will hopefully
mean adding fewer names to the memorial.
Also honored in Wednesday’s ceremony was Special Constable Marvin M. Wilder of the Brunswick Police Department, who died in the line of duty in 1921.
The Peace Officer’s Memorial Ceremony is held annually during Peace Officer’s Memorial Week.
• Reporter Michael Hall writes about public safety, environment and other local
topics. Contact him at email@example.com,on Facebook or at 265-8320, ext. 320.