DEPUTY'S OBSERVATIONS: Remembering Colleagues Who Are No Longer With Us (Part 1)
By Frank Hinkle
Memorial Day, the first Monday in May, is the traditional day for the remembrance of those Americans who have given their lives for our freedoms. When first created after the Civil War it was called Decoration Day and the traditional observance was to place flags or flowers on each grave of the countless Americans who had sacrificed so much for our great nation. After World War I a tradition began of placing a poppy on the graves, referring to Canadian Army Lt. Col. John McCrae’s poem “In Flanders Fields.”
Field Service Officer Eric U. Ramirez killed in-the-line-of-duty in Iraq, February 12, 2004. (Photo: San Diego SD)
Veterans Day is another national holiday when many of us remember all of the men & women who have served our nation in times of peace and war. On a more individual note many families set aside a birthday or holiday for remembering a lost loved one. For me it is Valentine’s Day.
Valentine’s Day has always been special to me. It is a time to thank my lovely bride for all that she has done for me. It is the birthday of my former partner Cydney, and I always like to send her a card. My father’s birthday is a few weeks later, and then my mother’s birthday is shortly after that. February and March are usually a very nice time of the year in San Diego, a time that I have always looked forward to.
But it was on Valentine’s Day 2004 that we learned of the loss of our colleague Eric Ramirez, while he was deployed with his National Guard Military Police unit in Iraq. Valentine’s Day has never been the same for me since, as birthdays and holidays are to so many of you who are reading this.
Specialist Eric U. Ramirez was 31-years old and was a native of Florida. Eric served as a Field Service Officer for the San Diego Sheriff’s Department, and was assigned with me at the Chula Vista Courthouse. His locker was on the same row as mine in the locker room. In order to better support his family and prepare himself for advancement in the Sheriff’s Department, Eric joined the California National Guard and was assigned to the 670th Military Police Company in National City. Both Eric and his wife Tracy Benson-Ramirez were veterans of the United Sates Navy. They had one daughter Isis who was two years old when her father deployed, and a son Chase who was born while Eric was on active-duty. Eric was able to return to Wisconsin for his son’s birth, and then he returned to Iraq.
On February 12, 2004, while on a patrol in the Abu Ghraib area his unit was attacked by small arms fire, rocket-propelled grenades and Improvised Explosive Devices. Eric was killed and one of his squad members was seriously injured. We in San Diego learned of Eric’s loss two days later, on Valentine’s Day.
I have lost other colleagues and I miss them all. I miss Steve’s laughter, Julian’s passion for chili, Grant’s smile and Jabben’s bad jokes. I miss Craig’s insight and Johnny’s charm, but I miss Eric a lot. In the limited space available to me here I cannot put to words who or what Eric Ramirez was like. Fortunately, others did better in remembering Eric in words than I can. But in preparing to write this tribute I stumbled on several pictures of Eric and I was struck by one thing that they all had in common; Eric was always smiling. Eric had this great attitude. He was hard working and dedicated and smart, and he had a way about him that made people like him and want to do what he wanted them to do. And a lot of that had to do with his smile. No matter what was going on you’d look over at Eric and he’d be smiling. I’d think, “Either it’s not that bad, or it is that bad, but at least I’ve got Eric with me so we’ll have fun while the world falls apart on us.”
For generations to come there will be debates about our roll in the war in Iraq and it’s part in our Global War on Terror. I am sorry that Eric Ramirez and so many others of our men & women have died in these wars, but I have no doubt that we had to be there and that Eric had to be there. Eric was a good officer and he had a great attitude, no matter what was happening. I am reassured that his military police colleagues in the Army found his presence just as reassuring as we on the Sheriff’s Department did. He was trained and confident and he loved his country and wanted to serve protecting its people, just as he wanted to protect his own family. Like all of our nation’s peace officers, firefighters and service people Eric and his family made sacrifices, and like so many Eric Ramirez and his family paid the ultimate sacrifice.
Stay safe, and stay alert.
Please see Part 2: Corporal Tyrrell Perley’s eulogy for FSO/SPC Eric Ramirez
Tributes to Eric Ramirez: