It’s a job using one drill bit and one plank of cherry wood, carving one letter at a time. It's hand-craftsmanship building much more than furniture.
"We just hope it fills that void,” SAPD Officer Tommy Capell said.
In a small shop outside his home near Lytle, Capell creates wooden chairs for first responders who will never use them.
"Since we started in 2013, we've donated 60 chairs throughout the country,” he noted.
Each chair is customized with the name, badge, challenge coin, and a pertinent quote from a first responder killed in the line of duty. They're meant to sit in the roll call room of the officer’s department as a lasting reminder of his or her sacrifice.
"We don't want them to be forgotten. We don't want people to go into roll call and not know about them,” Capell said. "’Cause a lot of new officers will come in and they won't know about 'em. They'll have no idea unless someone actually tells them."
Each chair takes about 40 hours to build from scratch, and he estimates that the price would be about $400 if he sold them. Instead, each chair is donated free of charge and delivered in person.
As an SAPD officer himself, Capell knows the demands of law enforcement. He built the first chair for a member of his police academy class who lost his life while on-duty. He made another for an officer killed during the Boston Marathon bombing.
“We got together, we built the chair, and my wife and two of my classmates and I drove it straight to Boston. We didn't really think about how far it was at the time,” he said, laughing. “But we did it anyways.”
It was the first time they delivered an “honor chair” to another department.
"Just seeing what it meant to them, it was a huge deal,” he recalled. "More than what we were expecting. So, on the way home, we decided, ‘Hey, maybe we should keep doing this.’”
They created a non-profit called Saving a Hero's Place. And now, sadly, they can barely keep up with the demand, even with three retired officers who assist.
They also make wooden kennel gates for K-9 officers killed on duty.
They only start building if contacted by the department. They're working on six honor chairs right now.
"You always think that people don't know,” Bexar County Deputy Joseph Canales said.
Canales’ family knows exactly what it feels like to receive one of the honor chairs. Joseph’s father was a San Antonio police officer killed on duty. His honor chair now sits at SAPD.
"But when you see that chair and it's unveiled, you're like no, no one forgot, and no one is ever gonna forget,” Canales said.
No one will forget these officers' sacrifices because of Tommy Capell's craftsmanship and compassion. That's why he's another one of the people who make San Antonio great.