COLUMBUS-- One by one their names were read. A solemn ceremony was held to remember Ohio State Highway Patrol troopers killed in the line of duty, including Kenneth Velez, who was killed in Cleveland last year.
Family members of the fallen, current and former state troopers and employees, gathered at the State Patrol Training Academy in Columbus Friday to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
"When you lose somebody on the force, it's a special brotherhood and 'cause when we're out there working on a midnight shift, all we have is each other," said retired trooper A.J. Torres.
Torres was a close friend of Ohio State Trooper Kenneth Velez for 20 years. Last September, at age 48, Trooper Velez was killed when he was struck by a vehicle while doing traffic enforcement on Interstate 90 in Cleveland.
"Kenny was unreal, a brother, a friend, a co-worker," he said.
There was a huge outpouring of support the day Trooper Velez was laid to rest. Torres says it shows the impact Trooper Velez and other fallen officers make on their communities.
"There were days he would pop at my mom and dad's house just to drink coffee and bring these little cheap donuts, 'cause I'd tell him, he'd bring these donuts and we'd have coffee and donuts, my mom, my kids loved him," Torres said.
Relatives of fallen troopers were personally escorted into the ceremony where each of the 46 names were read aloud. Trooper Velez's name added to a granite wall of men and women who gave their lives to protect others.
"Kenny's unit number will never be issued to another guy again, but his number was put on my son's badge, so that badge will be over my son's heart for the rest of his career," said Torres.
Since the Ohio State Highway Patrol was created in 1933, they have mourned 46 employees killed in the line of duty. They include 40 troopers, an enforcement agent and five support personnel.
Trooper Velez left behind his parents and three children.
Joshua Gaspar, 37, is charged with two counts of vehicular homicide and driving under the influence. He is currently under supervised release, including GPS monitoring. He is not allowed to drive and must undergo regular drug testing until his trial.