ODESSA, Texas (BIG2/FOX24) – Five honorees from the Ector County Sheriff’s Office will be heading to Austin on Tuesday morning for the 2019 Star of Texas Awards.
The ceremony is hosted each September by the state’s Public Safety Office and awards those injured or killed in the line of duty. Star of Texas Awards has been taking place since 2003 and the recognitions have grown to include more types of community heroes over the years.
This year, five employees with the Ector County Sheriff’s Office were chosen for this high honor: Captain Steven McNeill, Javier Leyva, Cody Smith, Josh Pool, and Ricky Rodriguez.
“It’s just an honor, you know, to be still standing here today receiving this,” said Smith.
A uniform, a badge, and a career-long commitment are heavy responsibilities the honorees understand all too well.
“This is a calling. This isn’t something most anybody goes into,” explained McNeill.
“I know my consequences. If I get in a gun fight, I’m either going to live through it, I’m going to get injured, or I’m going to die. But, I’m good with it,” added Leyva.
McNeill was shot in the head in 2010 while responding to a shooting in West Odessa. Leyva was shot two times back in August of 2014 while chasing down a previous gunman. And Smith, Pool, and Rodriguez were all shot back in January of this month serving a search warrant.
“At that time, the only thing I could really think of was I got to make sure everyone else here is safe, and we all go home to our families,” said Pool.
“At times you know, you just kind of remember out of nowhere. So for it to still be kind of around, and for us to be recognized for it, even so long after, it just feels good to know that our sacrifice is worth it to some,” added Rodriguez.
While the officers carry their scars alongside their nobility on a daily basis, all say it is a blessing to serve the community of West Texas.
“The people out here are really strong; it’s a strong community,” stated Smith.