If you’ve ever been to a Washington State Patrol (WSP) event, you’ve probably heard us say “we’re a family.” Every time we say it, we mean it. We always show up for one another – last weekend was no different.
On Saturday, June 16th, troopers from all over the state travelled to Kent and Bellingham to support the families of two fallen officers as they watched their loved ones graduate high school and college.
James Eric Saunders Jr. graduated from Kentridge High School surrounded by his family, friends, a dozen troopers, and WSP Chief John R. Batiste. James Saunders Jr.’s father, Trooper James E. Saunders Sr., was killed in the line of duty on October 7, 1999. His wife Billie was pregnant with James Jr. at the time of his death.
In Bellingham, troopers also attended the college graduation of Emily Hanger at Western Washington University. Right before the ceremony, Emily’s mother Lisa gave Emily her father’s badge to accompany her as she walked across the stage. Emily’s father, Detective Brent Hanger, died in the line of duty on August 6, 2015, when he suffered a heart attack while on an assignment in Yakima County.
Next week marks another very important milestone for Emily as she will officially start her career as a WSP trooper. Emily is the very first child of a fallen officer to make it through the WSP’s commissioned officer hiring process. She will spend the next several months training before she is commissioned by Governor Inslee next year.
After her college graduation, the WSP offered to take her father’s badge number out of retirement if she wanted it as her own. Emily graciously declined the generous offer. She told a WSP recruiter that she wants to blaze her own path within the agency.
Additional support for Emily and James Jr.’s education came from the Washington State Patrol Memorial Foundation (WSPMF). Under Washington State law 28B.15.380, the children of fallen officers may receive full in-state tuition for higher education; however, that doesn’t include other related costs such as lodging, food and books. That’s where the WSPMF steps in.
Their mission is simple, “preserve the memory of Washington State Patrol fallen officers and to provide assistance to active and retired Washington State Patrol employees and their families in times of need.”
Since 1982, the WSPMF has provided more than $2 million in financial assistance to WSP employees and their families. Proceeds come in from donations and the Memorial Foundation Dinner, which is held each year in honor of the WSP’s fallen officers. Last year’s fundraiser raised nearly $44,000 for the “Fallen Officer’s Spouse and Children College Fund.”
In addition to scholarships, the WSPMF provided more than $11,000 to WSP families and activities, such as dedicating a new memorial to honor WSP K9s who have died in the line of duty.