Wednesday, May 28, 2008
On May 18th, NLEOMF Ambassador Wilem Wong (NYPD), who is currently stationed in Iraq, organized a National Police Week 5k run. The event took place at Camp Victory in Baghdad and was an amazing success, with more than 750 participants, most of whom were law enforcement officers on active duty with the military in Iraq. The NLEOMF provided special tee-shirts to mark the occasion and to help our brave men and women in Iraq connect with their brothers and sisters at home in the states.
Our hats go off to Ambassador Wong for organizing the run and to all who participated in this spectacular event.
Friday, May 23, 2008
Video from WJLA-TV ABC 7 (Washington, DC)
Virginia State Trooper Justin Mahalik says he feels fortunate to be alive. It is the people of Virginia who should feel fortunate to have someone as brave and dedicated as Trooper Mahalik protecting them.
On April 30, around 12:45 am, Trooper Mahalik had made a traffic stop on I-66 just west of Washington, DC. The violator was seated in the back seat of Trooper Mahalik’s cruiser, when a drunk driver slammed into the vehicle. Though seriously injured, Trooper Mahalik managed to get out of the vehicle, walk around and remove the now-unconscious passenger, just as the cruiser burst into flames. Trooper Mahalik spent three days in the hospital and is still recovering from two fractured vertebrae and a broken rib.
Read the story and watch the video from WJLA-TV, ABC 7, in DC.
On Thursday, May 22, during a special Memorial Day traffic safety event, Trooper Mahalik saw the burned out carcass of his police vehicle for the first time since the crash. “It’s amazing that anybody got out of that car, much less got out of that car and pulled another passenger to safety,” said Col. Steven Flaherty, Superintendent of the Virginia State Police.
Col. Flaherty and other law enforcement officials are joining the NLEOMF in urging motorists to exercise extreme caution around police officers and other first responders who will be out on the roadways protecting the rest of us this Memorial Day weekend – and, really, throughout the year. Over the past decade, more than 150 officers nationwide have been struck and killed on America’s roadways, many of them by drunken drivers.
For more information, including 10 safety tips for motorists, visit the NLEOMF Drive Safely website … and sign the Drive Safely Pledge.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
There were a lot of tears during National Police Week 2008, as survivors, friends and colleagues remembered their fallen heroes. But there also were many smiles, caught by the lenses of our roving cameras, that were far too beautiful not to share.
So without further ado ... here is a slide show of just some of the many wonderful people at the Memorial walls and nearby environs during National Police Week.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
As our nation lowered its flags to half staff on Thursday, loved ones and colleagues of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty during 2007 gathered at the US Capitol for a special ceremony. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao gave remarks and the names of fallen officers were read aloud during the 27th Annual Peace Officers Memorial Day Service.
And in local communities from Albany, NY, to Lake County, CA, Americans paid tribute to our nation's peace officers -- both living heroes and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Designated by President Kennedy back in 1962, Peace Officers Memorial Day is an important part of honoring the country's fallen heroes.
At the conclusion of the US Capitol service, leaders of the Fraternal Order of Police, the FOP Auxiliary, Concerns of Police Survivors and the NLEOMF brought the wreath from the Capitol to the Memorial to remain under the watch of honor guards from all over the country for the rest of the evening. At midnight, a lone piper played Amazing Grace as flags were returned to full staff signaling the end of Peace Officers Memorial Day.
Many folks spent the afternoon and evening at the Memorial's walls. There were laughter and tears, handshakes and hugs, lots of blue tape, and thousands of name rubbings. There were flowers galore, setting a beautiful backdrop for mementos such as cigars, boots, even a bicycle. Officers from Flagler County, FL, brought a cruiser door to honor a fallen officer. So did members of the Newark, NJ, Police Department; they brought a cruiser door with a specially painted portrait of Sergeant Tommaso Popolizio, who died in March 2007.
But most importantly, there was one element that was critical and common. Sometimes you had to look hard to see it, yet often it was right in your face ... there was peace.
Whether you were walking the walls, sitting at the reflecting pool or at the Memorial's central medallion, you could sense it -- you were "Surrounded by Heroes."
Beginning even before the crack of dawn, NLEOMF Chairman and CEO Craig W. Floyd conducted more than 30 interviews via satellite with television stations and other media outlets across the nation. The interviews, most of which were carried live, were with local TV stations in communities as diverse as New York City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Minneapolis, Charlotte, Memphis, Toledo, Grand Rapids, Boise, Spokane, Albany, Denver, Alexandria (LA), and Miami, Orlando and Tallahassee in Florida.
During the interviews, Chairman Floyd reminded viewers to lower their flags to half staff on May 15 in honor of fallen law enforcement officers, as provided for in federal law. He also outlined the various National Police Week activities taking place in DC this week, and encouraged all Americans to show their thanks for, and support of, law enforcement this week and every week throughout the year.
The television "satellite media tour" followed a "radio media tour" earlier in the month in which Mr. Floyd conducted similar interviews with more than two dozen radio stations throughout the country, many in the same media markets where officers died in the line of duty last year. Using the news media to inform the country about trends in law enforcement fatalities and officer safety issue has become an important part of the Memorial Fund's mission.
Cherry Hill (NJ) Police Department (ret.)
It has been a year since I last wrote to you. The war here in Afghanistan still goes on, and like our Brothers back home, the Cops take the brunt of it. This past year in Afghanistan, hundreds of Police Officers were killed in the fight for freedom -- more than all of the Afghan and coalition soldiers put together. Their "Blue Line" is stretched thin, but holding against the Taliban.
As all of this goes on around us, up here in the central highland mountains of Uruzgan, we still remember our fallen Brothers and Sisters back in "The World" and our hearts go out to their families. This year we feel a special sadness in the recent loss of a Philadelphia officer. My partner here, Tony Magnum was a Philly cop. We wish we could be with you at the memorial.
But we will be there in spirit, and before the morning sun reaches DC, we will bring our little flag to half staff as the pipes play Amazing Grace. And we will remember.
God Bless You All. God Bless America.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
A few blocks away at John Marshall Park, the 6th Annual Steve Young Honor Guard Competition took place with dozens of teams from across the country competing
Outside the Visitors Center, an amazing young boy from Florida named Pat Pedraja, a 12 year old boy
The evening closed with the 13th Annual Emerald Society & Pipeband March and Service commencing around 6 pm. To the sounds of pipebands from up and down the East Coast and beyond, visitors paid homage to all fallen law enforcement officers, especially those of Gaelic descent. Honor guard units from across the nation are standing watch at the Memorial center medallion, until flags are lowered to half staff at midnight in honor of Peace Officers Memorial Day.
It was truly a day to remember and celebrate our fallen heroes.
The book contains dozens of stories written by cops themselves. Some of the tales will amuse and shock readers, from the chapters entitled “War Stories” and “The Beat.” And there are incredible stories told about life-changing experiences, including the deaths of fellow officers, in chapters called “Line of Duty” and “The Fallen.” John Langley, creator of the “COPS” television program, remarked, “these pages bring to vivid reality the real stories of cops whose guts and glory are seldom seen and rarely heard.”
TRUE BLUE: To Protect and Serve is available through the NLEOMF Visitors Center and online gift shop. All proceeds from sales through the NLEOMF are being donated by Lt. Sutton in support of the first-ever National Law Enforcement Museum in Washington, DC. And Randy was at the Visitors Center this week signing copies of the book. That’s just one of his many National Police Week duties, which also included serving in the LVMPD Honor Guard, escorting survivors to the Candlelight Vigil, and speaking to fellow Law Enforcement Ambassadors – officers from across the country who pledge to spread the word and raise money in their communities about the Memorial Fund.
Purchase a copy of TRUE BLUE: To Protect and Serve.
Video by George7171
With glowing candles held high and a sharp blue laser light overhead, an estimated 20,000 people packed the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Tuesday night for the 20th Annual Candlelight Vigil in honor of America’s fallen law enforcement officers. It was a ceremony that once again brought veteran police officers to tears, awed the hundreds of survivors who sat front and center, and inspired and moved even those who have attended several past vigils.
Approximately half of the two-hour ceremony involved the reading aloud of all 358 names that were added this year to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. They include 181 officers who died in 2007 and another 177 who died in yesteryear, but whose sacrifice had until now slipped through the cracks of history.
As is tradition, the U.S. Attorney General, Michael Mukasey, read the first group of names – 10 law enforcement professionals who made the ultimate sacrifice from the state of Alabama. He was followed by dozens of names readers that included NLEOMF board members, police chiefs, sheriffs, federal law enforcement leaders and survivors from across the country. Along with Jean Hill, national president of Concerns of Police Survivors (COPS), General Mukasey also lit the Memorial Candle, from which the lighting of the thousands of candles in the crowd began.
In his keynote remarks, the Attorney General remarked on the solemn, yet hopeful purpose of the event. “These walls are about sacrifice, and courage, and grief. But these walls are also about hope and love. They are here as evidence in stone that we will never forget these men and women,” he said.
NLEOMF Chairman and CEO Craig Floyd noted that while the 358 officers honored at the vigil were different in many respects – agency, age, rank and the like – they all shared a common bond of courage and commitment to serve. And now, he said, “they share a common place of honor here at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.”
The ceremony ended at almost precisely 10 pm to hugs, handshakes, still some tears but also smiles, and several television news trucks setting up for live shots on the late local news.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
And now, Steny Hoyer has another accolade to add to his considerable resume: the NLEOMF’s Distinguished Service Award for 2008.
The award, which recognizes individuals or organizations that have made an exceptional and lasting contribution to the law enforcement profession, was presented during the Chairman’s Dinner Monday night in front of more than 100 Memorial Fund board members, staff and top supporters. Majority Leader Hoyer is the 13th recipient of the prestigious award; past awardees have included former presidents, other members of Congress, corporate titans and others.
In accepting the award, Congressman Hoyer said that developing policy and enacting legislation is the easy part of fighting crime, when compared with what America’s law enforcement officers do every day to protect our communities, bring about order and defend our democratic rights and values. “Our nation’s law enforcement officers are the everyday heroes on whom we rely to ensure the protection of our citizens, the safety of our neighborhoods and order in our society,” he said.
NLEOMF Chairman Craig Floyd thanked the Majority Leader for his leadership in support of the Memorial Fund, including the issuance of 140,000 commemorative coins that raised $1.4 million for the long-term maintenance of the Memorial and securing a 2008 federal appropriation to support unexpected utility relocation work associated with the National Law Enforcement Museum.
Beyond those efforts, Mr. Floyd also thanked Congressman Hoyer for being there on behalf of the Memorial Fund and attending so many events in the past. He recalled one Wreathlaying Day ceremony, in particular, when the chaplain who was scheduled to deliver the invocation didn’t show up. Declaring that “anyone can say a prayer,” Congressman Hoyer stepped in and delivered, in Craig’s words, “one of the best invocations we ever had.”
For more information, including past Distinguished Service Award recipients, read the news release.
Executive Director, Concerns of Police Survivors
Reality shows are certainly proving to be the latest rage in America. People are moving in together, competing to lose the most weight, tripping the light fantastic, singing their way onto CD's, and vying for the hand of beautiful people. Americans are certainly hooked on reality television.
We settle back each night to watch these shows and during the year also watch many law enforcement shows that depict the line-of-duty death of an officer. There may be a short clip of the officer's funeral in the show, and then life in the precinct station returns to normal. In most cases, the officer is written from the script and never mentioned again.
While the media will be able to catch their snippets of footage of grieving family members at the May 13 Candlelight Vigil at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial and the May 15 National Peace Officers Memorial Service on the West Front of the United States Capitol, the "real life" scenarios will play out at the National Police Survivors' Conference.
Any media representative who chooses to come to the National Police Survivors' Conference on either May 14 or May 16 will learn that each and every day the memory of the fallen officer is very much a part of their surviving family and the affected co-workers. In reality, they can never be written out of the script. At the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center Hotel, 5000 Seminary Road, Alexandria, VA, 1,400 family members of America's fallen law enforcement officers will be attending the National Police Survivors' Conference. They will share their stories of loss and coping with other law enforcement survivors. For many of these families, this is where the healing process will begin.
Concerns of Police Survivors begins its 25th year of service to America's fallen law enforcement survivors on May 14. The organization now represents over 15,000 surviving families across the United States and has an international affiliate in the United Kingdom.
Knowing that survivors of 2007 will be exceptionally emotional from seeing and/or hearing the name of their loved ones at the May 13 and May 15 services, C.O.P.S. will offer media contacts access to more "seasoned" surviving families to relay the "real life" scenarios of the day-to-day struggles of law enforcement survivors.
For more information on C.O.P.S. or the National Police Survivors' Conference, visit http://www.nationalcops.org/ or call (573) 346-4911.
Monday, May 12, 2008
Riders and supporters gathered at the Memorial this evening at 7 pm to distribute medals and to announce that the PUT raised more than $1,227,000 this year for the National Law Enforcement Museum that will be built directly across from the Memorial.
Hundreds of riders gathered in a light drizzle to celebrate the PUT's success and to remember lost friends and loved ones, following one of the deadliest years for law enforcement in the past two decades. Riders celebrated these fallen heroes memory, their lives, and the difference they made. The evening also marks an exciting milestone in the personal achievements of the riders.
"It has been an arduous three, four days of riding for you. Through rain, cold, terrible weather … you were really tested this year. But you prevailed. Your story has traveled everywhere. Articles, news reports recorded your journey," NLEOMF Chief Operating Officer Herb Giobbi told the group of riders assembled.
Since 1997, the Police Unity Tour has raised more than $5 million for the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, including the $1.2 million announced today. In 2005, the Police Unity Tour pledged $5 million toward building the first-ever National Law Enforcement Museum in Washington, DC, making it the largest contributor to date to the $80 million capital campaign. The Police Unity Tour is the supporter of the Museum's Hall of Remembrance, where the stories of America's fallen law enforcement heroes will be told.
Never a man seeking fame or prestige, he acted as a true officer - always looking out for those in need. The events that would eventually put him in the national spotlight were thrust upon him; and the man who never sought to prove his significance would prove it anyway, as a true hero acting to protect his country.
The date was Novemeber 22, 1963. John F. Kennedy was making his infamous ride into Dallas. Officer Tippit left lunch with his wife, Marie, early; he was worried about trouble. His instincts would be right on that day. While riding in his patrol car, he received a call that President Kennedy had been shot. Officer Tippit was instructed to move closer to the center of the South Oak Cliff area, keeping his eyes peeled for the assailant.
At approximately 1 p.m., Officer Tippit stopped his car to question a young man. Something about him didn't quite fit. As Officer Tippit walked around the vehicle, the assailant shot him four times and fled. The 39-year-old officer died on the way to the hospital.
Witnesses eventually saw the suspect run into a movie theater. The police were able to confront the man and, after a struggle, arrest him. Lee Harvey Oswald was booked for the murder of Officer Tippit. Later, subsequent evidence conclusively linked Mr. Oswald to the assassination of President Kennedy. Without Officer Tippit's intervention that day, there's no telling whether Mr. Oswald would have ever been brought to justice.
Officer Tippit left behind a wife, Marie, and three young children, Charles, Brenda and Curtis. Marie Tippit had never seen her heroic husband's name engraved on the walls of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial ... until today.
With the help of Dallas Police officers, Marie Tippit and her son, Curtis, made their first visit to the Memorial on Monday morning, May 12. With rain falling heavily around them, Mrs. Tippit gazed at her husband's name, tears mixing with a sad smile in an emotional moment for her and her family. NLEOMF Chairman and CEO Craig Floyd presented Mrs. Tippit with a framed picture of her husband and an etching of his name.
Memorial Fund staff were honored to meet Mrs. Tippit, and grateful for her long-awaited visit.
The Police Unity Tour was first organized in 1997 by then-Officer -- now Chief -- Pat Montuore of the Florham Park (NJ) Police Department. In May 1997, 18 riders biked four days to raise $18,000. Over the years, the effort has grown to include several chapters and hundreds of members and supporters. This year's riders, an estimated 1,100, set out last weekend from locations in northern New Jersey and Virginia Beach, VA. They had planned to ride into the Memorial this afternoon, but severe storms overnight in the area have closed some roads, and many of the law enforcement officers who would normally escort the cyclists had to be assigned to enforcement duties related to the storm. Still, this year's Police Unity Tour members proudly cycled hundreds of miles, "riding for those who died."
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Video contributed by Elvert Barnes
An estimated 1,100 motorcycle riders – among them, U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters – made the annual trek from RFK Stadium to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial this morning for the 13th Annual Law Ride and Wreath Laying Ceremony. Law Ride pays tribute to law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty, in particular the more than 1,200 motorcycle officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice throughout United States history.
With F Street, NW, filled with parked motorcycles, Law Ride participants heard from a number of speakers during a ceremony at the Memorial. One of the speakers was Secretary Peters, herself a longtime motorcycle rider. She expressed concern that although America’s roadways are getting safer for motorists in general, they are becoming more dangerous for the nation’s law enforcement officers. She noted that a record 83 officers died last year in traffic-related incidents, remarking that “83 law enforcement deaths are 83 too many. Safer roads start with safer drivers.”
Secretary Peters praised the NLEOMF’s Drive Safely campaign, which provides safety tips and other information for motorists to use in watching out for officers on the road. She also encouraged all law enforcement officers to use their safety belts and take advantage of other safety and restraint systems in their vehicles.
The keynote speaker was Michael Turner, a retired Supervisory Special Agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration and a member of the Blue Knights Motorcycle Club. “Strength, courage and valor are the hallmarks of those who serve in law enforcement. It is through law enforcement service and sacrifice that we gain hope – hope that we can one day live in a crime-free America,” he said.
Following the remarks, Law Ride leaders and special guests placed four wreaths at the Memorial’s center medallion in honor of fallen law enforcement officers from all four regions of the country. NLEOMF Chairman and CEO Craig Floyd also read the names of 11 motorcycles officers whose names were added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial this year.
Law Ride 2008 raised close to $50,000 for the NLEOMF and the National Law Enforcement Museum. During the ceremony, generous checks were presented by SprintNextel, the American Heroes Foundation of the Defenders Law Enforcement Motorcycle Club, Panasonic, ICOP Digital, the Brevard County (FL) Sheriff’s Office Charity Ride and America’s Most Wanted, among others.
Saturday, May 10, 2008
Through Saturday, May 17, all federal, state and local law enforcement professionals can show their official identification and be admitted free of charge to the Newseum. It is located at the intersection of Pennsylvania Avenue and 6th Street, NW, just a few blocks south of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. It is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm.
The Newseum opened just a month ago. Its 15 theaters and 14 major galleries feature newsmaking people, places and events from the past 500 years, as well as two state-of-the-art television studios, an interactive Newsroom and 40-by-22-foot high-definition media screen. Many of the “news” stories that are told in the Newseum are “law enforcement” stories as well. Particularly striking – and moving – is the 9/11 exhibit, which includes the satellite communications apparatus from one of the Twin Towers.
There is also a memorial for journalists who have been killed over the years while gathering and reporting the news. Among them is Arizona Republic reporter Don Bolles, who was murdered in June 1976 after a bomb exploded under his car. Bolles had been writing stories about organized crime and attacking a powerful local businessman.
For more information, visit www.newseum.org.
Friday, May 9, 2008
A steady rain forced the ceremony inside, to the former DC Council Chambers in One Judiciary Square, from its traditional location at the Washington Area Law Enforcement Memorial Fountain outside Metropolitan Police Headquarters in Northwest, DC. But the strong feelings of love and admiration for the fallen officers could not be doused.
Terrica Gibson, sister of MPD Master Patrol Officer Brian Gibson, was the guest speaker. MPO Gibson was shot and killed on February 5, 1997, as he sat in his police cruiser in Northwest DC. The assailant had been thrown out of a nearby nightclub and, by his own admission, just wanted to kill a cop. Speaking eloquently of the family of law enforcement survivors who are “connected by fate,” Terrica said “I have received so much from this extended family” and assured the recent survivors that she and others will continue to give back to those “embarking on this journey that wasn’t of our own choosing.”
Each of the five officers who died in the past year was then remembered with special tributes by officials in their departments. The five officers are Officer Ernest Ricks III, MPD, EOW: May 17, 1989; Officer Wayne Pitt, MPD, EOW: April 10, 2007; Officer Luke Hoffman, Montgomery County PD, EOW: April 25, 2007; Corporal Scott Wheeler, Howard County PD, EOW: June 18, 2007; Corporal Courtney Brooks, Maryland Transportation Authority PD, EOW: January 1, 2008.
In addition, 92 other local, state and federal officers from the region who died in the line of duty in previous years were remembered during the Roll Call of Heroes. Their names were read aloud and carnations placed in a vase in honor of their service. With the rain still falling, members of the FOP Auxiliary later placed the flowers at the Memorial Fountain.
This was the 29th Annual Memorial Service for Law Enforcement Officers sponsored by the Lodge #1 Auxiliary.
“When we do this, we really fell like we become part of their family history,” Bockman told USA Today’s Kevin Johnson. “It’s very sensitive works,” says Lee. “You have to remember you are dealing with people’s emotions.”
The news story describes in detail the process Kirk and Jim use to engrave the names – and the precision they bring to the process. Often times, their handiwork is observed by family members and colleagues of the fallen officers who want to be there at the moment their loved ones’ names are revealed. “It was bittersweet, very emotional,” Karen Highbarger told USA Today after watching her son’s name engraved on Panel 11-W, Line 26. Her son, Smithsburg (MD) Police Officer Christopher Nicholson, was shot and killed in the line of duty last December “It was very special to watch,” she said.
According to Berneta Spence, the Memorial Fund’s director of research, more than three dozen victims’ relatives – some from as far away as Utah and Arizona – asked to watch their loved ones’ names engraved this year. Kirk and Jim wrapped up their work on May 3 – then, before leaving town, headed over to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to add a name there. The pair from Colorado has engraved many of the names on that national treasure as well.
Read the full story and watch the video on usatoday.com.
Thursday, May 8, 2008
by JIM DONAHUE
Contributor to Officer.com
(This article was originally published in Officer.com)
WHO HAS BEEN TO WASHINGTON D.C. FOR POLICE WEEK?
I hold classes for cops across the country on the topics of technology and tactics. As I finish the course material each time, I turn to the group and pose the question above.
Of a group of maybe 20, I might see one or two hands. Maybe none. "Who has heard of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in D.C.?" I continue. Thankfully, most of them have. It is then that I try to tell the story.
I must admit that explaining Police Week is like my wife trying to share her experience of child birth with me. She uses words that I know (or can look up). The words somehow always fall short of making me feel what she felt.
I know it's the same in a classroom with a group of cops. Words alone just don't cut it. Yet, I hope to touch a nerve or strike a chord in the heart of just one of those cops. I hope to light a fire in the heart of just one. Most of the time, the effort succeeds. For that I am grateful.
WHAT IS POLICE WEEK LIKE?
It starts with the preparations. I feel a spark inside as I make the hotel reservations. I talk to my past travel companions, confirming who will be going each year. We always reminisce about what we did in years past (though carefully not admitting to anything incriminating in front of our wives). We wonder what this year will bring - much like a starry-eyed kids wonders what Santa will bring for Christmas.
Having lived in Detroit until last year, D.C. was within driving distance. We could make it in 7+ hours by car (DON'T ASK).
Now that I'm in Florida, I suppose air will be the only practical choice.
The trip there feels like Christmas Eve Day did when I was a kid. I am eager with anticipation. It's tough to sit still. It's almost impossible to focus on any of the things my wife or boss wants me to do. The last time I felt like that was in college when a VW bug full of us traveled from Michigans cold to a South Florida beach in March/April. Yippee!
I've been part of Police Week six or seven times. With each repeat visit, I think that it will feel like "old stuff" this time. I sort of fear the "been-there, done-that" sense will set in. It doesn't.
On arrival at the hotel, it's swarming in cops. They are in plain clothes. Many have their badges hanging around their neck. Many don't. But there is no mistaking them for who and what the are: COPS.
It feels like arriving at a huge family reunion that is already underway.
After unpacking our gear, we jump on the Metro (tin gets you on gratis) and head for Judiciary Square - the Wall.
Let me explain the geography. The Wall in total takes up most of a city block in central Washington D.C. The Wall itself is actually in two sections sitting at opposite sides of the Memorial, shaped like parenthesis. It is shrouded in manicured trees and shrubs. In the center is a reflecting pond and a large NLEOMF badge etched into the granite surface.
The Wall is divided into panels (sections). On each panel are the names of the 18,000+ fallen officers that have been etched into its stone surface. The newest names are always on the very bottom rows of each panel. You now have a sense of what it's like, from a physical standpoint.
There are usually throngs of people there. Along the Wall are mementos that have been left there by friends, by survivors, and by agencies from all across the country. Those mementos tell a message of love and of loss. Some start out, "Dear Daddy... I miss you..."
The totality of the experience is overwhelming - to say the least. Grown men are shaking hands as old friendships are renewed. There are pats on the back. There are eyes filled with tears and hearts filled with pain, everywhere.
Each year, I've worried that I won't "feel it." That hasn't happened so far. Each year is as touching as the first time I was there. I hope it always will be that way.
I've really never kept track. But, I suspect that our visit consumes a couple of hours of time as we pay homage to the new names and comfort the survivors who have lost someone that's close. It's sort of like going to a funeral for few hundred of your closest family members all at the same time. We visit. We laugh. We cry. We try to bolster one another through the rough spots.
For most, this is a "must-do" function on the Washington tour circuit (wink). It is nearly a 24x7 activity. Nearby one finds a few familiar haunts: the Irish Channel Pub, the F.O.P. Lodge #1, and the F.O.P. Beer Tent which has dozens of vendors selling every kind of cop thing you can imagine - and some that you can't.
If you decide to hang out at the Irish Channel you can almost bet that sometime late in the evening, a group of pipers will round the corner from the Memorial, march up the street, and join you in the pub while playing Amazing Grace and everyone holds their beers high in remembrance and respect.
The beer spots will be jammed with cops. Yet, there will be no arguments. Aaaah yes, cops, guns, and beer... what a great mix (wink). Everyone acts as if you are their best friend, I guess, because you are. There are no strangers here; only family.
This is another part (a very important part) of the family reunion and the experience. You will see more cops in once place than you've ever seen anywhere before. After a beer or two, you will come to the realization that our family is greater than any single agency, greater than all of the bad bosses, greater than any state, it is the greatest body you could know. And, you are part of it.
Truly, there are events for everyone. I can't do all of it justice here. However, there are two web sites that are listed below for your ease of reference. Events go on all week. There is the Blue Mass, the Law Ride (motormen), multiple gatherings for surviving family members, the Emerald Society Pipe Band Service, Honor Guards from everywhere standing at the Memorial (24x7), and the arrival of the Unity Tour, just to name a few.
To me, the peak of the week is the Candlelight Vigil. It is always held on May 13th at dusk at the Memorial. There are famous people giving speeches. There are songs sung that will stir your heart. There is the awe of watching a sea of 25,000 candles come sweeping to light as we hear Amazing Grace sung and watch a laser driven Thin Blue Line appear over our heads.
We hold our candles high, inspired at the notion that our fallen brothers and sisters are looking down from above and can somehow see those lights and our tears.
Then, there is the Final Roll Call where the name of each officer that has been added to the Wall that year is read aloud for all to hear one last time.
We stand together (yes, about 25,000 of us). We cry together. We pay our respects together. We grieve together. We try to support the Surviving family members whose pain is even greater than our own.
Being cops, once that's over, we try to find solace in a brown bottle with an adult beverage inside. (wink) We usually do that until the sun starts to rise. (sigh)
The Police Memorial Service is always held on May 15th on the steps of the Capitol. Since I've been going to Police Week, it has been attended by thousands of cops, mostly in uniform.
Every year, President Bush has spoken to us. The names change, but the message is clear and resonant. He extends sympathy and gratitude for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice and simultaneously thanks those who continue to stand guard over our freedoms.
I guess I am most impressed by what follows his speech. Each year, our president spends 3 - 4 hours, away from the lectern, greeting each member of every surviving family. No matter what your opinion of his politics, he has a deep and abiding respect for our Brotherhood and all that it contemplates.
THE REAL REASON YOU SHOULD BE THERE
A couple of years ago, I decided to take one last walk by the Wall on the night before our return trip home. I had been with brothers, consuming a few barley-pops, and thought it would be my last chance to see it for another year.
I had begun my walk down the east side of the wall. I was trying to soak in the totality of the experience: the new names etched at the bottom, the wreaths or remembrance, the cards, the pictures, and the notes taped carefully in place.
I came upon a young man, I'd estimate about 25 years old. He was stooped before the Wall, touching a name etched there. The name was at the bottom, so I knew it was newly added. It was obvious that he was crying. A woman of about the same age stood behind him, touching him lightly on the shoulder.
I stopped and stood next to him. I too, touched his shoulder. He stood up and looked at me with tears streaming down his face. I asked of the relationship to the person on the wall. "He was my FTO," the man struggled. With that, he hugged me and sobbed on my shoulder. I held him tight and reminded him that his FTO is now in a better place. I also reminded him that he will never be alone. Never.
After a few moments, we shook hands and parted company.
Just before leaving, I came upon the most profound memento of the entire week.
I saw a single sheet of loose-leaf paper, complete with 3 holes that had been taped to a very low spot on one of the panels. The writing was in pencil. I stooped over to read it. It looked like a memo, with headings and all.
It began -
TO: Officer Joshua Mathew Williams
FROM: Your daughter, Lisa
DATE: May 14, 2004
Realizing what it was, I checked the area, and sat down right on the ground in front of this panel so that I could fully absorb that letter.
I am 13 now, and am really growing up fast. I'm very different, looking like a young lady. My mouth looks like the front end of a Cadillac because, you see, I have braces.
I am playing soccer this year and I was in the school play. I just had a small part, but I did my best, because that's what you taught me to do.
Johnny is 10 now, and he really makes me mad sometimes. But, Mom says that I have to be patient because he's my little brother and we all need one another. We're doing OK, but I know that Mom really misses you. I see her sitting in her favorite chair looking at your picture. I think she cries sometimes.
We miss you, Daddy, and we wish so badly that you could be here.
P.S. Thanks for taking the time to paint the pictures of the sunsets, Daddy. They are hanging in the hallway. I see them every morning when I get up. They remind me of you and how lucky we are to have a Daddy like you.
I have read that letter to the students of every class that I have taught since that day. I've made sure that a copy is in their student books.
We can't tell this story too much.
Spring Break for Cops? Maybe. For me, it's a time to recharge, refocus, and get my mind around the "Big Picture," once more.
If you're a cop who stays in the job simply because it is a regular paycheck, stay home. You'd probably just get in the way.
Otherwise, if you're a cop in your heart, be there. If you're a cop to the center of your being, show up. If you're a cop with all your heart and soul, you need to share in this experience. Do it once. Chances are you'll never miss it again.
Comments? Questions? Thoughts? I welcome them all. You can reach me by email by clicking on my name below. I hope to hear from you. More important: I hope to meet you in D.C. in May.
Jim Donahue is a native of the Midwest, getting his education at Michigan State University. He is now training patrol officers on Technology & Tactics. He has responsibility for training cops around the country to use patrol car computers - safely. Jim has worked with police departments across the country on process improvement at the patrol car level, focusing on technology to improve tactics, safety, and productivity. He instructs in a variety of police academies and having taught "Technology and Tactics" to thousands of cops in-service nationally. He is an accomplished grant writer. Jim is a certified ILEETA member. Jim has worked as a reserve officer, initially with U.S. Customs & Immigration at the Detroit/Canada border in the year following the attacks of 9/11. He has also worked as a patrolman on the street in a suburban Detroit community. Contact Jim.
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Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Now in its 14th year, the Annual Blue Mass provides an uplifting prelude to National Police Week 2008, which officially begins May 11.
In his homily, Archbishop of Washington Donald W. Wuerl described law enforcement officers as truly being children of God. Remarking on how officers put themselves in harm’s way to bring peace, the Archbishop said that only a person who has “courage, integrity and love can do this.”
David Aguilar, Chief of the U.S. Border Patrol; James DiGregory, First Vice President of the DC Fire Fighters Burn Foundation; and Carolyn Pandolfo, FBI Supervisory Special Agent, delivered scripture readings. Later, Sterling Spangler, President of the Washington, DC, Chapter of Concerns of Police Survivors (DC-COPS), read the names of the 24 fallen officers from DC, Maryland, Virginia and federal agencies who died in the line of duty last year.
Before the mass, honor and color guards from 20 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies processed outside the church under bright blue skies and a large American flag, hung across G Street, NW, by the DC Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department. The Emerald Society Pipes and Drums, Firefighters of Washington, DC, provided musical backdrop as the units entered the church.
The Blue Mass continues a tradition that flourished at St. Patrick Church, in a slightly different form, from 1934 to 1975. During those years, police officers would congregate annually to pray for their comrades who had fallen in the line of duty and to ask God’s continued blessing for their own safety. The name of the Mass comes from the blue color of police officers’ uniforms.