A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

On Father’s Day, Fish and Wildlife Commissioner remembers officers who lost their lives serving

As a father, I cherish the memories already made with my two daughters and anticipate the milestones still ahead of them.


High school graduation. College graduation. First real job. Marriage. I wish time would slow down because those life moments will be here before I know it.

Each day teaches us that life does not always stick to the script and that we should appreciate every minute with those we love and care about the most.

This Father’s Day, I will be thinking about Douglas W. Bryant and Bernard Dean Ratliff, who served the Commonwealth as Conservation Officers with Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. Both men tragically lost their lives in the line of duty, gone too soon, leaving behind spouses and children.

Survivors like Karen Ratliff. She was married to Dean Ratliff. Twenty years ago, he suffered a fatal heart attack while participating in agency-approved physical training. After his death, she raised two daughters on her own.

Col. Eric Gibson, Karen Ratliff, Maj. Larry Estes (provided photo).

Recently, a monument honoring the life and service of officer Ratliff was added to the permanent memorial in Frankfort for Kentucky’s fallen Conservation Officers. The monument for Ratliff stands alongside six others, including Officer Bryant’s.

Kiana Bryant Brown had just received her driver’s license when her father died in May 2003 and she now advocates for other survivors like her.

We set aside a week each May to remember law enforcement officers who made the ultimate sacrifice. While attending events observing the week, I visited with these amazing women. They are profiles in courage, strength and determination.

The same traits defined Officers Ratliff and Bryant and continue to define Kentucky’s Conservation Officers today.

Ensuring compliance with Kentucky’s hunting and fishing laws and keeping our waterways safe is all in a day’s work for the more than 100 Conservation Officers serving the Commonwealth. And when that work is done, many go home to families and children of their own.

This Father’s Day, let’s pause to thank those officers for their service and for filling two very important roles in life.

Rich Storm is the commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources

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