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Mike Terry, Deseret News
Clearfield police detective Carey Stricker, center, salutes with Clearfield Police Chief James Schilling at the the Utah State Capitol on Saturday.

During Karen Green's 20 years as a conservation officer for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, she was threatened, hit with a closed fist and shot at by a man with bad eyesight.

Green, who retired in 1998, is well aware there were multiple times when she could have been killed in the line of duty.

"It's part of the job," she said.

Since 1853, there have been 126 of her colleagues in Utah law enforcement who weren't so fortunate.

On Saturday, Green and hundreds of others gathered on the west grounds of the state Capitol to witness the dedication of a monument to those officers such as Emery County sheriff's deputies Jeremiah Johnson, killed in 2003, and Wade Hansen, who died in 1987. Both deaths were the result of car accidents.

"I feel like this is a very well-deserved memorial," said Emery County Sheriff Lamar Guymon.

Several members of Guymon's group made the trip, taking a moment to reflect on the fallen.

"Just an all-around American kid," Guymon said about Johnson, whom he recalled as always honest. "If Jeremiah told you something, you believed it."

The hole Johnson's death created in the department was filled, but Guymon said he can never be replaced.

Both Green and Guymon described their jobs as dangerous, particularly when pulling late hours, often alone or in remote places. It's the kind of career that 80-year-old Fern Middaugh wishes came with more backup for her grandson Landon Middaugh, 26, who was just promoted to corporal in the Utah Highway Patrol. He was at the Capitol in honor of UHP trooper William Antoniewicz, who was shot and killed on Dec. 8, 1974.

"They have to do so much," the grandmother said, looking up from her wheelchair at her grandson. "When they get out of the car, who knows if they're going to get hit or not. So the backup is very important."

She watched as her grandson took part in a ceremony that included a speech from Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., who called the monument a "little oasis of tranquility" and a place to move beyond a world of "artificiality" defined by cell phones, iPods and instant gratification.

Huntsman praised the more than 1,600 contributors, including children with handfuls of change who helped fund the $1.3 million monument that includes three statues and a wall with the names of every Utah law enforcement officer who died while on the job, all the way back to Rodney Badger.

On April 29, 1853, Badger tried to save a mother and her six children after their wagon overturned in moving water. He saved the woman and four kids, but he was swept away trying in vain to save the other two children. Badger was a Salt Lake County Sheriff's deputy at the time.

Huntsman mentioned how the name of one of his own relatives is on the memorial wall. William N. Huntsman had been on the Salt Lake City police force only nine months when he was killed in 1924 by an armed robber.

Former police officer Robert Kirby wanted to put a face on the fallen and called on representatives of each Utah law enforcement agency to gather on a hill behind the memorial to give people a visual representation of what losing 126 officers looks like. Kirby told the crowd that if they can go to sleep at night and feel safe or send their children outside to play, confident they'll return, then it's because of those who help keep the peace.

"This is the cost," Kirby said, looking at the 126 men and women on the hill over his shoulder. "This is the price we have to pay for that."

Saturday's ceremony was punctuated by the release of about 60 white rock doves, a rendition of "Taps," the firing of seven rifles three times in lieu of a 21-gun salute — and the children who helped unveil for the first time three sculptures by artist Lena Toritch.

"This project has touched me like no other," Toritch said. "It has changed me."


E-mail: sspeckman@desnews.com