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DHS honors West Virginia correctional officers felled by COVID-19

CHARLESTON — Two correctional guards who earlier this year succumbed to COVID-19, one who was posted at the St. Marys Correctional Center, will be honored by the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security.

The names of Cpl. Mark Rustemeyer and Lt. Delmar Dean will be added to the Capitol memorial for those who have died in the line of duty.

Homeland Security Secretary Jeff Sandy also authorized the issuance of the department’s Freedom Pin to the families of Rustemeyer and Dean during a ceremony Tuesday at the department headquarters.

Rustemeyer, 58, of Sistersville, served at the St. Marys Correctional Center since 1998. He died on Jan. 2 while under treatment for COVID-19, the first correctional officer to die from the virus.

Dean, 49, of Weirton, who had been with the Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation for more than 20 years, was serving at the Northern Regional Jail in Marshall County when he was hospitalized for COVID-19. He died Feb. 13.

“These have been heartbreaking losses for the DCR family,” said Commissioner Betsy Jividen. “As we continue to confront COVID-19, it is important to remember and honor those among us who have gone above and beyond. May their memories be a blessing.”

The Department of Homeland Security maintains memorials for fallen correctional officers, state troopers and U.S. Armed Services members from West Virginia who have died in Afghanistan and Iraq. With the support of Gov. Jim Justice, Homeland Security introduced the Freedom Pin in 2017 to further honor the men and women whose names are etched on them.

“The Freedom Pin is issued to the families of our deceased Homeland Security heroes and to federal, state, county, and city employees and citizens who have excelled in protecting West Virginia from threats to our way of life from natural disasters and both foreign and domestic enemies,” Sandy said. “It is my hope that with this symbol of patriotism, the great state of West Virginia shall never forget their heroism while providing for the safety and security of our state.”

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