HAMILTON, Texas (KWTX) A Bosque County sheriff's deputy, who only recently learned he was terminally ill, was laid to rest Wednesday.
Bosque County Sheriff's Deputy Kenneth Alan Kirkland. (Courtesy photo)
Kenneth Alan Kirkland, better known as "Big Al," died at home April 29 with family by his side.
He was just 59.
"I feel like he was taken from us way too early," said Bosque County Sheriff Anthony Malott.
"He loved his job, he loved the people at the office, and he didn't want to go, but that wasn't an option."
Suffering from diabetes, kidney and heart failure, Kirkland told his boss a few months ago that he was dying and needed to step down from his position as a narcotics investigator.
"He apologized to me because he said he felt like he was letting me down - I told him 'you never let me down,'" said Malott.
"It's the kind of person he was that he was more worried about the job than he was his own health."
The impact Kirkland made during his 30-year career in law enforcement was obvious Wednesday.
Following a memorial service at Barn Church in Hamilton, a procession of police cars from all over the state of Texas escorted Kirkland's remains to Oakwood Cemetery for inurnment.
"Alan was a good man and a great police officer," said Trace Hendricks, friend and Clifton police chief.
"Kirkland was with the Office of Attorney General (AOG) during the Texas 7 incident and was one of the investigators who worked to track them all down and return them to custody."
Behind Hamilton police escorting Kirkland and his adult children were dozens of vehicles and officers from agencies including the Bosque County Sheriff's Office, Clifton PD, Meridian PD, the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office, Texas Game Wardens, the Somerville County Sheriff's Office, Whitney PD, Woodway PD, Tarleton PD, and the Erath County Sheriff's Office.
"Alan trained many officers like myself who work all over the state in many capacities of law enforcement," said Hendricks.
Malott said it was difficult to describe a man of Kirkland's caliber and his dedication to the job and to the people he served.
"The Police Officers' Prayer pretty much describes that one - being dedicated to the job, being dedicated to the citizens of Bosque County, and especially being dedicated to the office," said Malott.
At the end of the service, there was a traditional symbolic 'last call' - a final radio call out for fallen police officers.
Bosque County dispatch called-out Kirkland's number, 104, three times, announced his name and the date of his end of watch, then said "we will take it from here."
BCSO helped raise $400 for funeral arrangements and even more prior to that to help with medical costs.
Kirkland was born in Hamilton County but lived in Gatesville.
He's survived by his mother, daughter, son, and three grandchildren.