SALT LAKE CITY — Laretta Beesley didn't know anything about the "Ride for Fallen Officers," last year when it drew thousands of participants to honor and support family members left behind.
This year, she was one of the guest speakers, having learned about the event the hardest way possible when her son, Utah Highway Patrol trooper Aaron Beesley, died last summer during a search and rescue operation on Mount Olympus.
"You wouldn't want this to happen to anybody," she said. "But you learn from it, and you learn how much people care. If you have to go out, go out a hero, doing what you love."
The 7th annual event drew more than 4,000 participants on Sunday and raises money to benefit surviving families. Riders began their trek in Lindon and traveled to the State Capitol, where a ceremony was held afterward. A helicopter landed in front of the capitol after ferrying some of Beesley's family members to the event.
Jade and Shelly Francom, the parents of slain Ogden police officer Jared Francom, were among the riders as was his brother, Travis Francom and Arik Beesley, the brother of Aaron Beesley.
"If we don't get reminded, we forget," said Clarke Christensen, president of the Utah Law Enforcement Memorial. Christensen told the story of Richfield City Marshal Lee Franklin Isbell, who was shot in 1921 and suffered three weeks until his death.
"The community lost one of its leaders. The community was heartsick."
But over time, the city, its residents and the police agency forgot.
"This ride is to make sure people don't forget," he said. "We are all about remembering them."
Laretta Beesely spoke of a recent law enforcement memorial tribute she attended in Washington, D.C, of the thousands who participated at a vigil and the feeling she got when they called out the name of her son.
"What a sad thing to have to go for," she said, but she described the turnout as overwhelming.
Misty Bruns was wiping tears as she stood among a row of flags planted in the lawn honoring each of Utah's 134 fallen police officers
She lingered at the flag for Bureau of Indian Affairs Police Officer Joshua Yazzie, who died in a 2010 crash while responding to a call.
Brunz, who grew up with Yazzie, worked with him and knows his family well, was among the participants in the ride.
"It is nice to see all the riders come and see all the support," she said.
Utah Attorney General John Swallow said the ride honors those who fight evil.
"Throughout history, there have been people who are willing to stand at the mouth of the cave with a spear, willing to stand between evil and the family inside," he said. "This honors the 134 people who by their death have sent a signal to evil that they are willing to stand at the cave and protect us."
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