It's been 6 years since the untimely passing of Deputy William Mast Jr.
He was just 23 years old when killed while responding to a call in Deep Gap during the early morning hours of July 26, 2012. Mast became the second officer of the Watauga County Sheriff's Department killed in the line of duty since 1952, and only the third officer to pass away while actively serving.
In an article I wrote on February 24, 2014 titled Widow Of Watauga County Sheriff’s Deputy Shares Her Story, my first sentence was “It was an event that no family, law enforcement agency, or media outlet wants to be informed of: “Deputy Killed In Overnight Shooting“. Looking back at those words it still seems so surreal from a reporter standpoint. As his funeral and procession was attended by people from all over the nation, it felt like time stood still for many of us watching or covering the event.
Since the time of his passing there has been a bridge dedication, his name added to the Fallen Officer's Memorial, an annual memorial foot race established , an annual memorial motorcycle ride established and the birth of his son just 17 days after he passed.
Last year just prior to the 5th year anniversary, WataugaOnline.com ask Watauga County Sheriff Len Hagaman to share his thoughts regarding the mark, and at the time finding it hard to believe it had been 5 years already his first comment back was,”You are right, it is hard to believe it has been five short years, but at the same time, very long years.”
Below is the rest of Sheriff Hagaman's response to WataugaOnline.com via email:
“Nothing really prepares us to journey through the range of emotions grief brings us – at various times we all feel the loss…
Triggers of remembrance occur at any time – day or night, in a crowd, with friends, or alone.
It may be our quick glance at a solemn black granite monument in front of the office, it may be the flag catching a quick breeze, it may be a similar, yet faint, laugh of a coworker, it may be listening to our response to a domestic, it may be a certain wail of a siren, it may be a funny story, it may be in a training scenario, it may be in seeing, or hearing, of yet another officer whose watch has ended, or it may be simply a quiet time of personal retrospection.
Personally, and our entire team, it is the overwhelming and haunting burden of purposely sending our co-workers into harm's way. That said, the key is to always remember that our folks are the very best, of the best.”
WataugaOnline.com honors the service, memory and life of Deputy William Mast Jr. and just as importantly his reach beyond death in touching so many.