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'I want them to know they're loved': Mother of late trooper plans law enforcement celebration in Byron

Tess and her husband lost their son Keith, a S.C. state trooper, in 2017. Her heart has connected with those wearing the badge

MARSHALLVILLE, Ga. — Officers, deputies and their families are invited for a free celebration of wearing the badge at North Peach Park in Byron Saturday. Men and women in blue, along with their spouses and children, will get a free barbeque dinner.

For Tess Rebman who's worked tirelessly to put the event on, it's a bittersweet occasion. 

Tess and her husband Dan lost their son Keith, a state trooper in South Carolina, in 2017. He had worn the badge for a little over a year and he was running radar on the side of the road when a car slammed into his cruiser at over 65 mph.

"We got the call here in Georgia at 2:30 a.m.," she recalled. "And I couldn't figure out why the troopers were meeting us at the state line."

Keith Rebman's fellow officers knew he was in bad shape.

"[We] watched him take his last breath and started our journey without him," said Tess.

At first, the grieving process was heart wrenching and private, but now Keith's mom regularly hosts state troopers at her house for meals. They see a bookshelf with all the fallen officers mementos.

"When your heart connects with an officer and he understands, he will hand you a challenge coin," said Tess.

Her heart has connected with a lot of men and women in blue -- and now she wants to go further.

She will hand out gratefulness bags Saturday night as the Church of the Orchard and the Rebman's host a celebration for law enforcement officers and their families.

"I want them to know they're loved," she said.

Tess had a choice when Keith died, shut down and live within her grief, or take her grief and work to support others like him. By choosing the latter, she feels she can make a difference and find a tiny bit of joy.

"It's a breath of fresh air. It's hope. It's tangible hope," she said.

The celebration runs from 6-8:30 p.m. Law enforcement and their families will enjoy a free barbeque dinner -- for everyone else in the area that shows up, organizers have food trucks.

Folks from Bibb, Crawford, Houston, Macon and Peach counties are invited. North Peach Park is located on W White Road.

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