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Jeff Stroble to be honored with memorial

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Community members associated with the Roswell Fire Department gathered at the Chaves County Fallen Heroes Memorial on the lawn of the Roswell Convention & Civic Center to witness the completion of fundraising to add a fourth stone. Fallen firefighter Jeff Stroble’s name will be the first added to the new stone. Eric Lair, left, and Ron Chambers, right, presented a check from the Roswell Professional Firefighters Union Local 1249 to Bobby Villegas, center. Also pictured are RFD Chief Devin Graham and RFD Lt. Paramedic Daniel Fuller. (Alison Penn Photo)

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A new stone will be added to the Chaves County Fallen Heroes Memorial and the first name added will be Jeff Stroble’s.

“To Heal. To Honor. To Remember” is what is inscribed on the memorial for 16 others who were killed in the line of duty. The memorial has three existing stones and two benches and stands on the lawn of the Roswell Convention & Civic Center.

The new stone will stand to the right of the existing ones, leaving room for another to be added on the left if needed. Bobby Villegas and RFD Lt. Eric Lair said future fundraising is being considered to add a third bench, with the cost unknown at this time.

Stroble was a fire apparatus operator with the Roswell Fire Department (RFD) who was injured in the line of duty in a fireworks explosion on June 5, and passed away on July 21. His funeral service and procession began at the Convention & Civic Center and ended at South Park Cemetery on July 26.

Villegas, with Farmers Insurance, and others have been raising funds to add another headstone for future fallen heroes. Villegas said the total cost is $3,100 for the new stone.

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“So hopefully, 200 years from now, people will want to know who were these guys that died in the line of duty in our county,” Villegas said. “And more than anything else, we want their kids to remember that, as a community, we will never forget what their parents did, and in this case, the father (Stroble). That’s what’s so important — let the kids know that they’re not alone.”

Another purpose of the memorial, Villegas said, is to let first responders know it is understood that they are in “harm’s way all the time,” and to “know that this community will always be behind them.”

Ron Chambers, president of Roswell Professional Firefighters Union (International Association of Fire Fighters) Local 1249, and Lair explained $1,600 was raised through a raffle this past weekend. A check for a total of $1,775 to complete the fund for the memorial was presented on Thursday afternoon.

All of those interviewed said one common thing — that they hope the memorial honoring these heroes will last forever. Once the stone and base are installed, Villegas, Chambers and Lair said an unveiling is anticipated before Christmas.

“… We all know when we got to work in the morning that you may not come home,” Chambers said of being a firefighter. “But he (Stroble) obviously when he left the house that morning, he didn’t know he wasn’t coming home. And so, we think it’s important to honor him for what he did and the sacrifice he made for our department.”

Chambers said they sold 52 raffle tickets, and Lair said over 200 people went “above and beyond” with their support last weekend. Chambers added it has been “incredible” to see the community “behind RFD” since the explosion.

Other contributors included the Fraternal Order of the Eagles & Aerie, Coalition of Equity and Responsibility, Sadler and Son Monument Works Inc. — as well as the Oropesa, Luna and Mestas families.

At the city of Roswell’s Infrastructure Committee meeting on Monday, City Engineer Louis Najar said the city is overseeing the installation and requiring the headstone be installed to their specifications, but not supplying funding. The Infrastructure Committee voted on passing a resolution in support of the memorial in September and the item was passed by the Roswell City Council on Oct. 10.

Villegas was involved in this memorial from the beginning. When New Mexico State Police officers and locals Ramon Robert Solis and Damon Kyle Talbott were killed in a helicopter crash in 2001, Villegas said their families and the community united to create the memorial. These same people came together for the dedication on July 4, 2003.

“Nobody wants their name etched up there, or their family member, or anybody they know,” Lair said. “But the whole fact is we have a place here where people always remember the people that sacrificed everything for their community. So that’s what we’re after, is everybody being able to have that memory.”

Special projects reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.