TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Karen and Joe Bohlender return to the Law Enforcement Center every year for a ceremony honoring fallen officers.
They've attended every year since their son, Officer Joey Bohlender, died June 13, 2000. He and partner Jeff Howey were responding to a burglar alarm when their helicopter crashed.
His father, Joe, says he lost his hero that night.
"You don't get over it," he said. "You just learn to live with it."
Karen says the annual memorial ceremonies are healing.
"We're always honored when someone we meet said they knew Joey and loved him," she said.
Eight Topeka Police Officers have died in the line of duty, most recently, Corporal David Gogian and Officer Jeff Atherly.
Whether it's the recent loss or one from decades earlier, the law enforcement family will never forget. One day each May, they begin at the Law Enforcement Center then move to the cemeteries. An honor guard joins family and fellow officers in visiting the grave of each fallen officer, from Caswell Matthews, killed in 1912, to Boots Shields, Marcus Hood, Tony Patterson, Howey and Bohlender, and, this year, one more stop at the graves of Gogian and Atherly.
Topeka Police Chief Ron Miller said it is important to take time to remember the fallen each year to remind people how the officers lived and what they did for their communities.
The Bohlenders agree. Karen says the officers died doing what they loved, serving their communities and standing up and to protect others.
They wouldn't have it any other way, Joe added.
It's a message the Bohlenders say brought comfort to them, and one they've shared with the Gogian and Atherly families - passing on the hope that their loved one's name will be the last.
"Remember," Karen said, "they are always with you and they always will be."