In prayer, music and poem, T.R. Havins Unit employees and gusts observed the annual memorial service Tuesday morning that honors Texas correctional officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
    The solemn ceremony, held outdoors on a pleasant morning under a brilliant blue sky, included the setting of the symbolic “missing officer” table, set for one, with a single empty chair.
    Warden David Lofton began the ceremony by saying it honors correctional officers “who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the safety and well-being of others. A ceremony like this is a fitting tribute to those who have died in the line of duty.
    “As an agency, we recognize the loss of each officer and we acknowledge each is worthy of commendation for courage and dedication to service.”
    One at a time, Havins Unit employees walked forward to place symbolic items on the missing officer table, which itself is symbolic with a round shape to show everlasting concern for missing loved ones.
    Sgt. David Cloud read a description of each item and what it symbolizes:
    • Tablecloth — white, to show the purity of the officer’s sacrifice while answering the call of duty.
    • Sword — symbolizes honor.
    • Single red rose — displayed in a vase as a reminder of each of the missing loved ones and the friends of the correctional officers who keep the faith.
    • Vase — tied with a yellow ribbon, a symbol of the continued determination to remember and “take care of our own.”
    • Slice of lemon — reminder of the bitter fate of those killed or crippled while protecting society.
    • Pinch of salt — symbolizes the tears endured by those missing and their families who seek answers.
    • Bible — represents the strength gained through faith to sustain those who continue.
    • Inverted glass — symbolizes their inability to share this day’s toast.
    Capt. John Lopez carried the empty chair — symbolizing the missing officer — to the table.
    Lopez and Lt. Cynthia Denton then read a roll call of the Texas correctional officers who have lost their lives beginning in the 19th century. After each name was read, Sgt. Andy Henderson tolled a small bell.
    The ceremony concluded with the playing of “Taps” by trumpeter John Dunn.