SALT LAKE CITY — Four Utah college students, whose family members either died in the line of duty or faced serious injuries, received more than $8,000 in scholarships from the Utah Peace Officers Association at a ceremony Tuesday.
"This is a very unique event where we do things a little different," association President-elect Arlow Hancock said, holding back tears. "We reach back, so we don't forget — and we reach forward. And that's what these scholarships are about."
The Brody Young Scholarship given to the students receives its name from Moab park ranger Brody Young. Young was shot in the back nine times after a suspicious vehicle traffic stop, leaving him in a monthlong coma, but with his life.
Young shrugged off any attempts of reverence for his brush with death. Instead, on Tuesday, he offered the spotlight for those who didn't make it.
"There were four other officers, the year I got shot, that died. From one gunshot — it was awful," Young said. "And here I am living with nine rounds. There's survivor's guilt that creeps in."
He said that it's by helping others that he works through such guilt. Helping others like Gunner and Benjamin Francom, who both received scholarships in remembrance of their brother, Ogden police officer Jared Francom.
Jared Francom was killed in a 2012 raid on a suspected drug house. Gunner and Benjamin Francom were in high school at the time.
"He's (Jared) a big influence in my life," Gunner Francom, who is studying mathematics and statistics at Utah State University, said. "I try to do my best and work hard to things the way he would do it."
Benjamin Francom is following more directly in his brother's footsteps, serving as a police officer at Salt Lake City International Airport.
"I think about my brother a lot because every time I'm addressed as 'Officer Francom,' I think they're not talking to me, they're talking to somebody else," Benjamin Francom said.
While already on his chosen path, Benjamin Francom is studying mechanical engineering at Weber State University. He hopes the degree will help him work for the federal government, whether it be the Drug Enforcement Administration or with the U.S. marshals.
Despite being in the same career path that took his brother's life, Benjamin Francom is unfailing in the pursuit of law enforcement.
"Somebody's got to do it," Benjamin Francom said.
Utah Highway Patrol Lt. Alex Lepley did not die when he was rear-ended by a semi over 20 years ago, but he was left with a broken back and neck. His son, James Lepley, recognized that he was much more fortunate than others.
"It means a lot to me that you would take your time to care enough about these situations with family members, that you would help me," James Lepley said.
James Lepley is studying at Utah Valley University to become a commercial pilot.
Tyler Orr was among those honored at Tuesday's ceremony despite being unable to attend. His father, Uintah County Sheriff's Cpl. Kevin Orr, died in 2006 while searching for a lost woman. His helicopter struck a power line and crashed into the Green River. Kevin Orr died the next day.
Damon Orr, a Utah Peace Officers Association president-elect, accepted the award on Tyler Orr's behalf.
"Tyler is 21, he's going to BYU. He's going to be a doctor," Damon Orr said. "He's incredibly smart, he's on the dean's list."
The money raised by an annual trail ride held in Moab make the scholarships possible. Police officers and members of the public are encouraged to drive motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles and Jeeps on the Utah Fallen Peace Officer Trail.Comment on this story
The trail was originally going to be named after Young, but once again, he displaced recognition for those that didn't survive. The trail, and the annual ride, would be named for them.
Hancock, whose organization runs the annual event, said the trail ride is one for families.
"It's a really good event for the law enforcement community — but it brings the public into it to," Hancock said. "Those that want to do that kind of stuff, they want to rub shoulders with us and be a part of it, are always welcome."