Bridge named for Mast
by Anna Oakes
Each day more than 19,000 vehicles cross over the South Fork New River east of Boone via the U.S. 421 bridge, which on Tuesday was dedicated to the late Deputy William Mast Jr.
Watauga County Sheriff Len Hagaman and Paige Mast, William's widow, said they hoped passengers would take time as they passed to reflect on the sacrifice of the fallen officer. Mast was shot and killed while on duty in the early morning hours of July 26, 2012. He was 23 years old and left behind not only his wife, Paige, but also a son, William Hunter Mast, who was born just weeks after the tragedy.
"My husband would be so honored," Paige Mast said, thanking community members for their continued thoughts and prayers.
A ceremony dedicating the bridge took place at Perkinsville Baptist Church in Boone Tuesday morning, with remarks by Hagaman, Paige Mast, Watauga County Commissioners Chairman Nathan Miller and N.C. Department of Transportation Division 11 Board of Transportation member Jim Palermo, as well as an invocation and blessing of the bridge by the Rev. Derek Wilson. The Watauga County Sheriff's Office Color Guard presented the flags as attendees recited the Pledge of Allegiance.
Mast was born Aug. 16, 1988, in Watauga County to Angela Gail Wall and William Ronald Mast Sr. He was a 2006 graduate of Watauga High School and a 2009 graduate of Caldwell Community College's basic law enforcement training.
"Being a law enforcement officer ... is a calling, not just a job," said Hagaman. The sheriff reminded the dozens of Watauga, Boone and State Highway Patrol officers in attendance of the dangers they face each day.
"We in law enforcement must remain ever vigilant," he said. "Stay on your guard."
At Mast's funeral in 2012, his close friend Trooper Chris Morgan spoke of the "fire in his eyes" and Mast's excitement about being in law enforcement.
"He loved what he did, and he would want all of us to know here today that we are not only in law enforcement, but law enforcement is in us," Morgan said at the time. "He would also want us to know that every officer is a hero to somebody, and we can't give up."
The bridge dedication was requested by the Watauga County Board of Commissioners and approved by NCDOT last November.
"The law means nothing unless we have a special class of citizens willing to give up their time to enforce the rule of law," Miller said. "We owe them a debt of gratitude that we'll never be able to repay. There is no greater sacrifice than what Deputy Mast gave us."
Palermo said the bridge dedicated Tuesday was built in 1990 when U.S. 421 was still a two-lane highway and then widened in 2004 along with the road. State highway bridge dedications are reserved for public servants who have fallen in the line of duty, he said.
"(Mast) demonstrated courage and dedication
well beyond his 23 years," Palermo said.