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Chaves County first responders celebrated at lunch

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On the right, Mike Herrington, Chaves County Sheriff, sits with fellow law enforcement officers, first responders and locals at the First Responders Appreciation Lunch Tuesday in the parking lot outside the Roswell Chamber of Commerce on 131 W. Second St. (Alex Ross Photo)

First responders in Chaves County were treated to a free lunch Tuesday, a small act of recognition for the sacrifices they make everyday while on the job.

Ballard Funeral Home & Crematory and LaGrone Funeral Chapel & Crematory hosted the lunch on the west side of the parking lot of the Roswell Chamber of Commerce on 131 W. Second St., as traffic roared past.

Cerritos Mexican Kitchen provided the food for the lunch that, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., had the feel of an outdoor barbecue. In their uniforms, firefighters, Roswell Police Officers and Chaves County Sheriffs Deputies were served burritos from 10 to 11:30 a.m. and then burgers for the duration of the lunch as they sat enjoying each other’s company.

One of the organizers later said 117 first responders showed up for meals.

This is the fourth year the lunch has been hosted. Michael Koonce, with LaGrone Funeral Home & Chapel, said it is a way to show a small measure of gratitude to those who don a uniform and serve their communities.

“They are putting their lives ahead of anything every time they show up on a scene and we just want to show our appreciation,” Koonce said.

Some former first responders showed up for the event.

Troy Grant, manager for LaGrone and one of the organizers of the lunch, served on the Roswell Police force for 22 years, eventually attaining the rank of commander of the department’s Criminal Investigation Unit.

Grant said he enjoyed his career in law enforcement, but believes those in uniform often do not get the recognition they deserve for going above and beyond even what they are required to do.

“I think, there is on the street anyway, there is a lack of respect toward our law enforcement than what we used to have when I was working as a policeman,” Grant said.

Charles Yslas, chief deputy with the Chaves County Sheriff’s Office, said occasions such as the lunch are very important for law enforcement to come out to and interact with residents within the communities they serve.

Yslas added that he thinks the recent death of Jeff Stroble, a Roswell Fire Department apparatus operator, has reminded people of the sacrifices first responders make.

Stroble died in July from injuries he sustained in an explosion while on duty preparing fireworks for the annual Fourth of July fireworks display.

The episode also served to remind people of the importance for all first responders to maintain strong relationships with one another, regardless of how they serve their communities, Yslas said.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.