For 16 years, airport officers have gathered in respect

Posted Friday, Feb. 15, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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ARLINGTON -- Maria Barreda-Alvarado stood at her son's grave and gazed at the circle of public safety officers gathered around.

Cpl. Richard "Rick" Barreda's headstone was decorated with yellow and white flowers.

"It has been 16 years now," Barreda-Alvarado told the officers Thursday. "This means so much to us. You are family and anytime I talk about any of you, I say 'family.'"

They're family because every year, without fail, officers with the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport Department of Public Safety meet quietly in the cemetery at Moore Funeral Home in Arlington on the anniversary of Barreda's death.

Barreda, a 26-year-old husband and father, died Feb. 14, 1997, after a shuttle van pulled into oncoming traffic without warning. He tried to avoid a collision but was forced to lay down his motorcycle and slid underneath the bus.

He is the only officer ever killed in the line of duty at DFW Airport.

"It's a private time for the motor officers as a group, whether we have stayed in that section or moved on," said Floyd Martinez, who as a motorcycle officer was the first to respond to the scene of Barreda's crash. "It's to remember him in our way. We've done it every year and we'll always continue to do it."

Before Barreda-Alvarado spoke to the officers, white balloons were passed around. Officers wrote personal messages on them with black marker: "RIP Bro, Never Forgotten."

Barreda-Alvarado wrote "Love you, Miss you, Mom ."

They stood at Barreda's grave, released the balloons, tilted their heads and watched them drift away.

Then the officers gave Barreda-Alvarado a large, framed collage of pictures and an airport police patch.

"I know you have gotten a lot of things over the years to remember Rick," Martinez told her. "This is one more of many. I just want you to know we won't forget."

"It's beautiful," she told them "It's so pretty."

Barreda's younger sister, Kristina Montet, and his mother recalled Barreda's quick wit and positive outlook. He was a graduate of Sam Houston High School in Arlington and loved being a motorcycle officer.

They laughed when asked about the image of Goofy, the Walt Disney character, imprinted on the side of Barreda's gravestone.

"Goofy was always his favorite so we knew we wanted to put it there," Barreda-Alvarado said. "He was very, very happy."

Barreda's widow and daughter live out of state, Montet said. His daughter will get married this year. Although they couldn't attend the gathering Thursday, both asked Barreda-Alvarado to thank each officer for remembering Barreda.

No fallen officer should ever be forgotten, Barreda-Alvarado said.

"I always tell everyone that if these officers who make the ultimate sacrifice are forgotten, then it's like they died twice," she said. "So this means a lot to families and survivors who want to keep their name alive, even if their name is being whispered somewhere."

Alex Branch, 817-390-7689

Twitter: @albranch1

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