Hope in Hughson
Photo Credit: ABC 10/A Vigil In Hughson To Honor Deputy Wallace
Two days before Thanksgiving, in a little area of Northern California, thousands of people joined together for one man. His name was Dennis Wallace. Wallace was a deputy for Stanislaus County Sheriff, and served as a school officer (among many other roles in his 25 years). He was also heavily involved in the lives of many students, through the D.A.R.E. program (Drug Abuse Resistance Program), and also on his own time and dime. On November 13, 2016, Deputy Wallace was executed by gunfire investigating a suspicious vehicle.
As the dreadful news of his death spread, a community mourned. The day of his funeral came. The following two Facebook posts aptly describe the day from two different perspectives.
The first is from community member Janell Myrick who was part of the community support (permission was granted for the reprint):
“I live in a small town.
Where many of us know each other. Some grew up here, some just starting to raise their families here.
One of the many traditions is our parades. Homecoming and Halloween. Our town flocks to the main drag in town we affectionately call Main Street even though it’s really named Hughson Avenue.
I grew up watching and/or participating in these parades. They were a way of life. As I got older I came to realize that many, many other people haven’t been able to be blessed in such a community. Especially the larger cities. I’ve lived in large cities during college and much of my adult life. I returned to my small hometown 7 years ago to raise our children.
Today, our little town came together to honor the family as our fallen deputy did his final patrol through town followed by procession of his family, law enforcement and first responders ranging from local communities to statewide.
Forty minutes of patrol car after patrol cars passed by flashing lights and occasional siren boops and beeps. It seemed like hundreds of motorcycle cops whizzed by, stoically poised with their hands gripping the handlebars and eyes forward. Sheriffs, Policemen, crime scene, volunteers and more came driving through our quiet, sleepy little streets. The chop, chop, chop sound of hovering helicopters let us know that there were eyes in the sky. One was our sheriff helicopter that has aided in so many calls and rescues.
Like every parade that our town has done before, we showed up to wave, smile and cheer on our teams, or in this case, our protectors. There was no happy cheering today but there was quiet love projected by the amount of blue ribbons, American flags, balloons, signs, thin blue line flags, pompoms and crowded sidewalks and street corners.
Chairs lined the streets where people of all ages and even some pets gathered in unity for a moment in time.
Not only did we line our normal parade route, but all along the procession route that included four schools, the athletic fields he helped to fundraise and organize, a retirement community, the edge of his own neighborhood and many homes of the residents he helped protect and serve.
Many of the drivers and passengers looked forward as they drove by. Some waved back, many I saw held up their phones as they took pictures or videos from their perspective. I wonder what it must’ve been like, felt like.
Many of us enjoyed reading and discovering all the different cities and counties that were represented. I wondered just how many of those in the procession had never participated in small town “parade” before. I wondered how it must’ve felt and looked to them.
I wondered if they could feel the immense strength we were projecting. The love we feel for them. The support we were sending them. That they matter to us. That they matter to many of us.
For 40 minutes I stood and “blew kisses” as the Husky mascot to each and every patrol vehicle that passed by me. Many didn’t see as they were looking in different directions, many responded with a wave or smile, and many blew a kiss back.
Some people I was able to see a smile spread across their face. Some locked gaze upon me where I would slightly bow while blowing kisses as a sign of respect. The looks of awe on some of their faces as they gazed upon the crowds, the children waving happily and huge flags and banners being waved.
I’m proud to be from a small town. There is the stigma of being podunk, backwards, uneducated and country bumpkins compared to our larger cities and metropolis, but there really is nothing compared to us. We know we aren’t inferior. We are just like so many other towns filling our entire nation. Full of wonderful citizens.
We may be a small town, but our hearts are big.”
The second was posted on How2LoveYourCop’s Facebook page:
“Yesterday Chief and I attended the funeral of Deputy Dennis Wallace from Stanislaus County, California. He was the latest officer from California to be executed by gunfire. I’ve been to many line-of-duty funerals in my 28 years with Chief, and this was the second police funeral I attended this month.
If you’ve been following the 40 Days of Gratitude campaign on this page, you may have noticed that I’ve shared some difficult days. When protests turn to riots, another brother or sister is laid to rest, our family time is cut into, our officers show signs of wear, and the media spreads the filth of hate and anarchy, discouragement and fear sets in. I’ve heard from many of you that this is the case for you, too.
But yesterday I rode with Chief in the processional from the service to the gravesite for the first time. It floored me.
The quiet majority came out and were anything but silent. I’d never seen such support from a community. Signs of support (not one middle finger!). Blue line flags that hung from houses and vehicles and people. Blue ribbons tied to telephone poles and trees and fences. Blue balloons adorned the schools. People dressed in blue T-shirts waving American flags. People of all ages, colors, occupations, socio-economic status’. We saw farmers, orange-vested men in hard hats, store owners, office staff, veterans from several wars, and families who may or may not be here legally. There were babies with their mommas, sons and dads with their hands over their hearts. Women crying. A man standing at attention with a blue ribbon tied to the grill of his completely restored pickup from the 50s. Seniors in wheelchairs. Teenagers. Smiling people without teeth. Firemen saluting on top of their engines at every turn. Older men with hands over their hearts with jaws tight. Young men with their pants hanging low. Pretty sure I saw a tweaker or two. We drove by the schools where Deputy Wallace was particularly involved, and school children by the dozens chaperoned by parents and teachers crowded the streets. Messages of admiration lined the chain-link fences. Thank you notes, tears, and waving. Helicopters and planes flew overhead, and those in the processional could not help but turn on their sirens in thanks as we passed by.
This is small town Northern California! There were hundreds of people, perhaps even thousands. And they were there to honor the life and sacrifice of Deputy Wallace, to show their support for his family, and all law enforcement.
It gave me hope.
Because even though there are those who are protesting, and rioting, and wreaking havoc and hate toward the Thin Blue Line, there are thousands who support peace officers, and do not support the violence, nor the sentiments that are so inflamed by the media. We’re not as alone as we thought.
Deputy Wallace was one of those officers who went the extra mile on the job—with kids in particular. In the service we listened to testimony of his commitment to young people, and the difference it made in the lives of many. His integrity and passion for his community built bridges between officers and those arrested. Adults and children. Life and death. And even though there were many colors that were present, race was not even mentioned. Not once.
I was reminded of the power of one. Just one officer made an incredible difference in the lives of this community. And there are countless officers who are doing the same.
I was reminded that we are America. Land of the free, home of the brave. There is hope here.
So today, Day 39 of 40 Days of Gratitude, I am grateful for hope. Thank you Modesto, Ceres, and in particular, Hughson, for your voice. You spoke for the silent majority across the nation. We as police families are so thankful.”
The comments that flooded the page afterward were incredible. More support, more love, and more hope. Not one was negative. It was again overwhelming as the post spread throughout these small communities. They want to print the post in the Hughson Chronicle, which cannot be obtained online, by the way.
I know that Hughson is not the only town in America who feels this way about our peace officers. There are thousands of communities just like it. In the words of Anthony Escobar, a community member from Hughson, “The silent know when to make a statement. We are not the loud, kicking and screaming specialized group with one focus, we are this country and the backbone of its creation. We are the farmers, office workers, the veteran, the servicemen and women, mommies, daddies, black, white, Latino, Asian, the color blind. We believe in equality for all groups, we focus on our family, our Lord, and our jobs so that we can support our community. We are proud, we love this country, what it represents, what it provides. We are America and we believe that all lives matter. We give thanks today for all of those who risk so much for us. We support you, we pray for you.”
These are the voices of the quiet majority—hear and have hope.