Honoring Jayme 10 Years Later
January 27, 2021
Honor Guard members surround the casket of fallen correctional officer Jayme Biendl at her memorial service at Everett Event Center in 2011. (DOC Communications)
MONROE — Correctional Officer Roland Pascua knew Jayme Biendl for about three years when she died in the line of duty in 2011.
They worked the same shift at Monroe Correctional Complex (MCC). They talked about work and family. And about Biendl’s love for horses.
When he speaks about Biendl, Pascua describes her bubbly personality and the way she made sparking camaraderie among her coworkers seem effortless.
“She was one of those officers who was straight up genuine, passionate and real,” Pascua said. “She made you feel like, ‘You know, I’m here for you.’ She loved coming to work and being around everyone. She would make you feel better, even on those days you weren’t at your best. After talking to her, you would feel better.”
Pascua, who is a member of MCC’s Honor Guard, never imagined he would have to carry the casket of his fallen comrade at her memorial service.
“It was so unreal,” Pascua said. “Whenever I see pictures from that day, it brings up so many feelings, good and bad. It’s important to remember her, to say her name every day.”
An inmate strangled and killed Biendl inside a chapel at the Monroe Correctional Complex at the end of her shift. Jan. 29 is the 10 year anniversary of her death.
Working through Grief with Honor
Pascua first joined the Honor Guard in 1987, while he worked in the Corrections Division of the state of Hawaii’s Department of Public Safety. The Honor Guard he served on was also the first Correctional Honor Guard in the state of Hawaii.
Pascua continued serving in the Honor Guard when he joined the Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) in 2007.
More than 3,500 people attended Biendl’s memorial service at Everett Event Center in February of 2011.
Before working in corrections, Pascua served in the U.S. Air Force. The motto of its Honor Guard is to honor with dignity. It’s a motto Pascua carries with him each time he performs at a line of duty death memorial or other ceremony.
When an officer dies in the line of duty, honor guard members are immediately assigned to watch over the officer’s body 24 hours a day until they are brought to their place of internment.
Pascua began watching over Biendl’s body at the medical examiner’s office the morning after she passed away, rotating with other officers in 12-hour shifts.
“We had to keep it together starting on day one,” Pascua remembers. “It was a long day.”
Pascua says Honor Guard members express their grief differently than the public. When an officer dies, the community grieves and mourns openly. They cry. They hug their loved ones. They talk to each other and give eulogies.
While everyone else is doing this, Honor Guard members remain silent while everyone else has their eyes on them.
Honor Guard members preform a myriad of tasks like posting of colors, rifle detail, carrying a flag draped casket, playing of taps, bell honors and wreath laying, to name a few. The ceremonial actions the Honor Guard takes are the last things an officer’s surviving family members will see before the officer is laid to rest.
Pascua says being able to pay tribute to Biendl and other officers like her in this type of display helps Honor Guard members cope with the pain of losing them.
“It’s a different way of grieving,” Pascua said. “Silence powerful. People don’t realize you can grieve by not even talking, but doing what you do best. Silently we practice and train and when you come together it is stronger than a volcano erupting. When you come together, it’s an awesome feeling, and that’s how we grieve, knowing we did not let them (the officer) down.”
In the decade since, Corrections has made several improvements in safety and security.
For example, officers are now armed with pepper spray and emergency call buttons on radio mics. The department updated its camera systems and improved lighting in dark areas. All custody staff receive expanded training, which includes in-depth instruction on defense tactics.
Corrections also increased its number of correctional officers. Additionally, it created and added full-time safety and security specialists at each correctional facility. People in these positions have many responsibilities including making sure staff are physically accounted for, coordination of check-in points, and holding weekly emergency radio drills to ensure personal body alarms, panic buttons and duress alarms are working.
Besides the new safety and security positions, staff have more opportunities to get involved in safety planning. Staff at correctional facilities meet monthly to talk about safety and security issues specific to their work areas and ways to address them. Staff may also submit written concerns and suggestions to their local security advisory committee. If a suggestion or concern comes in that has an impact statewide, it’s the department’s statewide security advisory committee that reviews it and discusses ways to address it at a statewide level.
Honoring Jayme Statewide and Beyond
Corrections and other community members have continued honoring Biendl in the years since her death.
Each year, MCC holds a wreath-laying ceremony on the Friday before her death anniversary, also called the ‘end of watch date’ in law enforcement circles. Every year, the Honor Guard preforms the ceremony, surrounded by staff and Biendl’s family members. The ceremony takes place in a Walk of Remembrance Garden, which has a memorial stone inscribed with Biendl’s name.
This year’s wreath laying-ceremony will go on. However, it will take place with only the Honor Guard present, to keep group size small and allow for social distancing amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The DOC also does a coordinated moment of silence on Biendl’s end of watch date each year.
She is memorialized on the road that leads up to the Washington State Reformatory at MCC. In 2018, officials named the road “Plant Engineer Benjamin Marshall-Correctional Officer Jayme Biendl Memorial Lane.” Benjamin Marshall was fatally wounded by two inmates during a nighttime escape attempt–also at the Reformatory–in 1951
Corrections facilities across the state have memorial plaques with her name. At the DOC’s Headquarters in Tumwater, she is memorialized in an Artist sketch, along with the sketches of other correctional staff who have died in the line of duty.
Her name is also one of 21,000 that are commemorated on the National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial in Washington, D.C.
At the American Legion Cemetery in Granite Falls, which is Biendl’s hometown, there’s a shiny headstone with a cross with her name and an image of her badge.
Biendl’s name is also on the Washington State Law Enforcement Memorial in Olympia–along with the names of 328 other officers. The Behind the Badge Foundation maintains the memorial. The Behind the Badge Foundation also holds an annual walk/run in Biendl’s honor.
This year’s run took place virtually, and statewide, with participants running their own routes in their own counties. The Behind the Badge Foundation reported 125 people registered for the event.
Other law enforcement agencies have looked to the Washington State Department of Corrections to teach them about responding to Line of Duty Deaths. Greg Miller is a member of the Behind the Badge Foundation’s Line of Duty Death Response team. He’s also Corrections’ Chief of Emergency Management. Miller has facilitated briefings for law enforcement officers in other states about how Washington agencies plan and manage law enforcement memorial services and provide support to agencies and families.
Miller says sharing knowledge is one way he keeps Biendl’s memory alive.
“Every time I get deployed to teach, share a plan or memorial service, I do it for Jayme,” Miller said in a 2017 interview. “Her sacrifice has had a great impact in the agency, around staff safety and relationships we now have with law enforcement agencies that I can call when I need help, or when someone needs us. My ability to do this work is only there because of Jayme.”
Pascua says in the past decade, there’s not a day that goes by that he doesn’t think of Biendl. He says he thinks of her every time he is deployed to a ceremony as part of the Honor Guard and that each deployment is another way he continues honoring Biendl.
“She was more than a great friend, she was like a sister,” Pascua said. “I am so blessed to be part of the Honor Guard. It is my passion, heart, mind and soul. Everything we do represents how much we really want to show this person service and we’re giving back to them. It’s a gift to commemorate the fallen. We will never forget them.”