Fallen Watauga deputy to be honored
Mast was among the seven law enforcement officers remembered Tuesday at the Peace Officers Memorial Service in Fayetteville, which drew more than 500 law enforcement officers from across the state.
Judge Jimmie Ervin IV of the N.C. Court of Appeals, the keynote speaker, urged those in attendance to remember those who died in the line of duty for how they lived their lives and approached their work.
Honor Guard members placed seven red roses, one by one, on a wreath of white carnations while the officers' names and details were read. Richard Ward of the Watauga County Sheriff's Office placed a rose on the wreath on Mast's behalf.
Family members of the fallen were escorted out of the church and saluted after the ceremony.
The event was the keystone of "Peace Officers Memorial Day," declared by Gov. Pat McCrory to recognize the sacrifices made by members of law enforcement. North Carolina has nearly 440 police departments, including municipal police, airport security, the state capitol, college campuses and hospitals, as well as 100 sheriff's offices.
"Law enforcement officers put their lives on the line every day to protect us all," McCrory said in a statement Sunday. "We urge everyone to remember these men and women and the significant contributions they make to keep us safe."
Mast, 23, died July 26, 2012, after being shot while responding to a call on Hardin Road in Deep Gap. He left behind his parents and brother, his wife, Paige, and his unborn son, William Hunter Mast.
The recognition will continue next week as family and friends of Mast will head to Washington, D.C., for National Police Week, to be held May 12-18.
Sheriff Len Hagaman said he expects about 18 officers from his office and the Boone Police Department to join Mast's family for the week of events.
"There's a lot of activities that will be specific for Paige and for us, as well, as we cope," Hagaman said.
Among the highlights of the week is the 25th annual candlelight vigil, to be held at 8 p.m. Monday. As many as 30,000 to 40,000 routinely attend the event, he said.
Several wreath-laying ceremonies, band demonstrations, athletic competitions and survivors' conferences also fill the week.
The 32nd annual National Peace Officers' Memorial Day Services will occur at 11 a.m. Wednesday in front of the U.S. Capitol.
Even after the events of National Police Week are over, Mast's name will remain on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. The memorial features two curving, gray marble walls that contain the names of more than 19,000 officers who have been killed throughout U.S. history.
Three Watauga County officers already have places of honor on the walls, Hagaman said: former Boone Police Chief Hill Hagaman, who died Oct. 10, 1933; Blowing Rock Chief William Greene, who died Feb. 18, 1963; and Maj. Bob Kennedy of the Boone Police Department, who died July 17, 2002.
The memorial is visited by nearly a quarter million people annually, according to the memorial website.
Hagaman said he was looking forward to being among law enforcement brethren, who come from across the world for the event, and honoring Mast.
"It helps to close the door or bring some closure," he said. "We will never want the door to be completely closed, but this is just a total honor and reminder of what he did."
While individual officers are covering their own expenses, Hagaman expressed gratitude to the county, which has offered its fuel cards to help the officers get to the event, and to those who have conducted fundraisers to help offset the costs.
He also thanked the Blowing Rock and Boone Police departments and Appalachian Regional Healthcare System police, which will be assisting while the sheriff's office is short-staffed.
Hagaman said next week will be his seventh time participating in National Police Week in Washington.
"I've been before just out of respect," he said. "This one is going to be a little bit more intense and emotional, I'm afraid, but that's good, too.