5/15/2013 9:54:00 AM Editorial Police Week vigils honor, enshrine
Courtesy the Daily Courier
This week, up to 40,000 people - widows, children, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, friends, law enforcement agencies and dignitaries - will converge upon Washington, D.C., to honor federal, state and local peace officers who have died in the line of duty.
Receiving special attention this year, as every year, are the officers we have lost the previous year. Their names will be formally dedicated during the 25th annual candlelight vigil tonight at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial walls, the first of the events that take place in the nation's Capitol during National Police Week each May.
On Wednesday afternoon, crowds will gather again for the National Peace Officers Memorial service on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol.
Both the vigil and the memorial services are solemn occasions carried out with elegant dignity in an observance that inspires camaraderie among the many who have lost loved ones while they were serving their nation, states or communities as peace officers.
This annual observance dates back to 1962, when President John F. Kennedy signed a proclamation designating May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial, and the week in which that falls as Police Week. In 1982, 120 survivors and law enforcement supporters gathered in Senate Park, marking the first official memorial service. Decades later, what we now call National Police Week, has grown to a series of events that attract thousands of survivors and law enforcement officers to a week of paying solemn homage and respect to fallen officers.
The memorial is an expanse of walls with names of each officer engraved in blue-gray marble walls. At the base of the walls are mementoes from family and friends - pictures, handwritten notes of love and farewell, flowers and other small tributes. Standing guard at the entrance to the walls are bronze sculptures depicting a series of adult lions protecting their cubs, symbols of the protective roles of law enforcement officers.
These walls bear the names of 321 officers who were killed in 2012, in addition to names of 201 recently discovered officers who died in previous years. After this year's ceremonies, there will be a total of 19,981 officers' names engraved on the memorial walls, names that date back to the first line-of-duty death in 1791.
Names that are added to the walls go through a comprehensive qualifying procedure, but we can anticipate one from Arizona that will be inscribed in 2014, that of Department of Public Safety Officer Tim Huffman who was killed May 6 when a tractor-trailer struck his patrol car on Interstate 8 near Dateland, Ariz.
With sadness and regret, we know that more names will be embedded in those memorial walls for National Police Week next year.
A simple thank-you to all of these men and women is simply not enough, but please believe that we will not forget any one of you.