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'Wonder no more what a hero looks like'

Respect, honor and peace flooded the sanctuary as family, friends and fellow first responders remembered Ryan Phillip Hendrix, the Henderson County sheriff’s deputy who was killed in the line of duty last week.

Hendrix, 34, was shot and mortally wounded by a vehicle break-in suspect who had earlier exchanged gunfire with a homeowner in a Mountain Home neighborhood. The funeral, a procession hundreds of cars long and a graveside service honored the Henderson County native and Marine Corps veteran of the Iraq War who leaves behind two children, his fiancee, his parents, six brothers and a sister.

Family and friends described him as an unforgettable servant who jumped at the chance to help others.
“In my whole life I have never met anyone more talented,” his sister Abigail said. “But despite his talents, nothing compares to his servant’s heart. Ryan, you have won at life's competition. You have accomplished more in your 30 years than we will in our whole life.”
She shared stories of childhood competition she had with her older brother. Nothing compared, however, to the admirable attitudes held by his whole family.
Thomas Hendrix, his younger brother, said Ryan has a way of seeing beyond his own circumstance.
“He showed compassion to the criminals because he realized that without the family structure he had, he could have gone down that exact same path,” he said. His fellow officers remarked on his love for catching  bad guys.
Sheriff Lowell Griffin said Deputy Hendrix had a natural aptitude for the job because he was doing what he loved.
“There are times in this life when you find where you’re supposed to be,” he said. “You know without a doubt that the people who surround you have your back. You love those you work with because they’re family. That is who Ryan Hendrix was. He had your back, he was your family.”

Griffin talked about the instincts Hendrix had that made him a great deputy.
“He would be the first one to fight you. But when it was done, he would be the first one to pray with you. … He was not about meeting or exceeding a standard. He was always about setting the standard.”
His minister, Chas Morris, the pastor of Grace Blue Ridge Church, recounted a recovered essay Ryan wrote when he was 17. “This essay was regarding 9/11 and the question of general question, ‘Why?’ One quote from his essay, ‘God has a purpose for everything. Whether we see it or not, it’s still there.’" Ryan is alive now more than ever before. This faith brought peace to the entire congregation.
Peace was what Emily Wilkins, Ryan’s fiancée, hoped to convey. Instead of the typical black attire one would wear for a funeral, Emily opted to wear white. Their wedding was supposed to be four weeks from Saturday. Emily wanted to remain positive and thankful for the relationship she had with Hendrix, and she showed that by wearing a white dress.

Wilkins recalled the night Hendrix responded to the Mountain Home break-in and shots fired.

“When Ryan got that call we all knew he was so happy," she said. "Cranking up the music, rushing into battle to serve and protect his community. When he knew he was going to handle business with (deputies) Carlos and Omar, he probably started dancing. When he got there and was with his brothers for one second, the next second he was with Jesus. That brings me peace.”

Griffin said the entire force grieves for one of their own.
“He has left a huge hole in our agency and a gaping hole in our hearts,” he said. “If you’ve ever wondered what a hero looks like, wonder no more. Just look at these pictures. Godspeed Deputy Ryan Hendrix. Your work here is done and with the help of everyone here today, we will hold the line until we meet again.”