Two men lost their lives while serving their communities.
Two others were killed while serving their country.
Fittingly, all four are memorialized together in Heroes Park in Lake Forest.
City officials, family members and friends of the four men, along with dozens of community members, gathered at the park Sept. 9 to honor Orange County Sheriff’s Department Deputies Darryn L. Robins and Bradley J. Riches, along with Army Specialist Justin W. Pollard and Army Cpl. Matthew K. S. Swanson.
Each of the park’s four ballfields have been named for one of the four fallen heroes and the names and brief descriptions of each man are inscribed in bronze plaques in the shape of home plate.
Each home plate is cemented into the ground behind the backstop of the corresponding field.
Robins, 30, a seven-year veteran of the OCSD, was accidentally shot during a training exercise on Christmas Day 1993.
He spent much of his career working with youngsters in elementary schools and developed programs to help keep kids out of gangs, long before gang intervention became commonplace, Undersheriff Don Barnes said.
“I think it’s a beautiful tribute,” said Robins’ mother, Mildred Fisher. “I’m really glad that Lake Forest still remembers him.”
At 12:52 a.m. on June 12, 1999, Riches was sitting in his patrol car at a 7-Eleven in Lake Forest when a man wielding an assault rifle fired multiple shots at him.
Riches began his law enforcement career in 1989. He became a sworn deputy in 1991 and worked in the jail system until 1998. He began patrolling Lake Forest in 1998.
“I can think of no better location to honor the memories of Darryn Robins and Brad Riches,” Barnes said. “Both of them cared tremendously about this community. This is a very appropriate memorial to those who have sacrificed.”
Pollard, who grew up in Foothill Ranch, enlisted in the Army shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He was assigned to the 2nd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment based in Fort Carson, Colo., before deploying to Iraq.
He was the driver of a Bradley Fighting vehicle and then became a gunner, and an expert in spotting IEDs.
Pollard, who was killed in 2003, was credited with saving more than 150 of his fellow soldiers.
“It is because God created men and women of tremendous courage just like Justin Pollard, that we are able to gather here today with gratitude in freedom and security,” said Congresswoman Mimi Walters, who represents California’s 45th District. “When people give their lives for this country, it is the ultimate sacrifice and the least we can do is honor them with ceremonies like the one we’re having today.”
Swanson, 20, was assigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team and was a member of the 10th Mountain Division based in Fort Drum, N.Y., when he was deployed to Afghanistan.
He died on Aug. 8, 2009 from injuries sustained in a vehicle rollover.
OCSD Sgt. Jack Songer worked with Riches and was on duty the night he was murdered. Songer also is a military veteran.
“It’s great that they honor the two fallen military guys and the police officers,” Songer said. “Together, it is equally as important.”