Community members gathered Tuesday to honor and remember a Columbia County correctional officer killed in the line of duty.
Sgt. Ruben Thomas, 24, was stabbed to death by inmate Richard Franklin on March 18, 2012, at Columbia Correctional Institution in Lake City.
Paula Thomas, Ruben’s mother, and the rest of Ruben’s family attended the ceremony Tuesday morning.
"He was very special, irreplaceable, just full of life, loved his family," Paula Thomas said.
Some of Ruben’s co-workers and the Florida Department of Corrections planned the service, and it’s something they’ve told Thomas' family they’d like to do every year to remember him.
“Never Forgotten” is the theme for the memorial service. Employees of the prison and the state were at the service.
"Today was all about honor, it was bringing them out and showing that we're honoring his memory and then commemorating the event by setting the theme of 'Never Forgotten,'" said Monroe Barnes, a warden at the prison.
“I was contacted by several of the officers out at the prison that wanted to invite us, that they were adding a new piece to the monument and wanted us to be a part of it,” said Paula Thomas.
The monument is already in place outside the prison. It has a picture of Ruben and on each side of it, the names of Ruben’s daughter and son with their handprints, and it says, “My daddy, my hero.”
Thomas' fiance was pregnant with their son Elias, and daughter Emma was just a year old when he was killed.
"We talk about him like he's still there. Emma has a little memory of him, so she's able to tell stories," Lee Ann Thomas said. "He didn't even get to meet Elias, but he was already in love with him."
In the two years since his death, Thomas' family and his co-workers have mourned his loss and miss him dearly.
“I think it’s a great way to bring awareness to our correctional officers and the sadness of everything that our family has went through, just to continue to support us and support Ruben’s memory and also to raise awareness about what these guys have to go through on a daily basis,” said Paula Thomas.
The Florida Department of Corrections secretary spoke at the memorial, which was open to the public.