"Texas first responders know there is no such thing as routine,” said Governor Rick Perry in a speech Thursday morning.
Each and every first responder, family member, or even widow of a fallen hero who is being honored Thursday at the Shoreline Church in Austin has a story; a story of a day that changed their lives forever.
“It certainly was the case when Brazos County Constable Brian Bachmann arrived to serve an eviction notice in College Station, only to come under fire by a resident inside. Constable Bachmann was killed,” said Perry. “Three other peace officers were wounded in a shootout before the gunman could be brought down.”
August 13th, 2012 is a day 25-year-old Justin Oehlke will never forget.
“To me, going to the call was no different than any other call,” said College Station Police Officer Justin Oehlke.
But the call led to an unimaginable outcome.
“This calling. This noble service carries with it a great element of danger. They understand that placing yourself in harm’s way will sometimes carry a huge cost,” said Perry.
“The bullet hit my fibula; broke my fibula and continued, and went out my achilles. It pretty much shredded my achilles,” said Oehlke.
He's undergone surgery and continues physical therapy three times a week.
“I feel like I could go back to work today, but I know I have to slow myself down and take the proper steps, but like I said, I just can't wait to go back to work,” Oehlke explained.
Oehlke is modest and humble.
“It's definitely humbling to be in the presence of all these…I think of all these men and women as heroes, not really myself,” Oehlke added.
Seventy-four first responders received the Star of Texas Award during Thursday’s ceremony; eight of those responders live in the Brazos Valley.
“College Station is such a close-knit community,” said Oehlke. “You think it's not going to happen in our community. We try to make it as safe as possible, Police, EMS and Firefighters, you know, we try to keep it as safe as possible, but after something like this, you just realize it can happen anywhere.”
Fallen Brazos County Constable Brian Bachmann; Fallen Bryan Firefighters Gregory Pickard and Eric Wallace; seriously injured Bryan Firefighters: Rickey Mantey Jr. and Mitch Moran; College Station Police Officer Justin Oehlke; Madisonville Police Officer Hector Camarillo and Washington County Sheriff’s Deputy Art Senteno.
“These individuals we lost over the past year lived with that understanding, but it was part of living lives with consequence. They were a part of a higher calling,” said Perry.
“I didn't really think twice about it,” said Oehlke. “When you hear gunshots to go in and help your buddies after hearing they need help on the radio, I mean, like I said, you just don’t even think twice.”
“To those of you with us today who were injured in pursuit of your duties, you have the gratitude and respect of our entire state,” said Governor Perry.
Oehlke's story and heroic actions have helped make the Brazos Valley a safer, stronger and better place to live.
Officer Oehlke got engaged less than a month after he was shot. He and his fiancé, Amber, will get married on November 23rd in College Station.
The award, created by the Texas Legislature, honors peace officers, firefighters and emergency medical first-responders who are killed or seriously injured in the line of duty on or after Sept. 1, 2003.