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Final Good Bye: Pennsylvania Gov. Honors Officers


As you remember these fallen officers, take comfort in recalling that they dedicated their lives to the same principles of honor, duty and courage that brought you to the badge. Such a life is truly rich. Take strength in knowing that when an officer falls, our resolve to serve those in need is not diminished. Our dedication to protecting those in danger is not weakened. Our commitment to remembering those with whom we shared the badge does not fade.

Godspeed, brothers and sisters. You fought the good fight. Now rest in peace…


April 07, 2004

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Final Good Bye: Pennsylvania Gov. Honors Officers

Officer Down: Deputies VanKuren & Burgert - [Towanda, Pennsylvania]


Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell paid homage to slain Bradford County sheriff's deputies Michael VanKuren and Chris Burgert at a special memorial ceremony held in Towanda the day after their funerals.

During the ceremony, chief county probation officer Tom Schuster read citations from the governor to the families of VanKuren and Burgert.

"It is with heartfelt sympathy that Midge (his wife) and I extend our deepest condolences to your entire family," Rendell wrote to both families. "I know there is nothing anyone can say at this time that is truly consoling."

Christopher Burgert
The governor wrote the following to Burgert and his family:

"Christopher M. Burgert worked with unyielding dedication for personal, community, and commonwealth excellence. As a six-year veteran of the Bradford County Sheriff's Office, the lead investigator for methamphetamine crimes in the county, a member of the United States Air Force Reserve, Christopher risked his life in unpredictable and dangerous situations to ensure that his fellow citizens were safe. Throughout his career he touched the lives of many and repeatedly achieved the highest levels of personal and civic distinction.

"Christopher lived an extraordinary life - a life filled with honor, service, commitment to his fellow man, and love for his family. He will forever live in the memories of the many people who had the joy and privilege of knowing this fine individual and distinguished Pennsylvania citizen.

"Please know that our thoughts and prayers are with your entire family. It is our sincere hope that you will find comfort in the embrace of family and friends and in your cherished memories of Christopher."

Michael VanKuren
To VanKuren and his family, Gov. Rendell sent the following citation:

"Michael VanKuren worked with unyielding dedication for personal, community, and commonwealth excellence. As a 10-year veteran of the Bradford County Sheriff's Office and an integral part of the county D.A.R.E. program with his partner, Deputy Montana, Michael risked his life in unpredictable and dangerous situations to ensure that his fellow citizens were safe. Throughout his career, he touched the lives of many and repeatedly achieved the highest levels of personal and civic distinction.

"Michael lived an extraordinary life - a life filled with honor, service, commitment to his fellow man, and love for his family. He will forever live in the memories of the many people who had the joy and privilege of knowing this fine individual and distinguished Pennsylvania citizen.

"Please know that our thoughts and prayers are with your entire family. It is our sincere hope that you will find comfort in the embrace of family and friends and in your cherished memories of Michael."

Area officials pay tribute

Probation Director Schuster said that at the service held at the First Baptist Church on Tuesday, he spoke about how he and VanKuren had been instructors at the deputy sheriff's academy. During training, Schuster said, they always told the pupils that anyone who assaults them either verbally or physically is assaulting the badge, not the person.

"Then I said, in the wake of last week's tragedy, to all the people with the badges on (who were attending the ceremony) 'We are people too. We have families, brothers, sisters, wives, and children. We grieve."

Schuster, who gave the final salute to the deputies during the ceremony, said that someone in the audience asked him how they, as civilians, should salute.

Schuster said he explained that the method for police officers was the traditional one of touching the edge of the right hand to the forehead. For probation officers, Schuster continued, the method is to put the right hand over the heart. Schuster said he suggested that - in this case - a round of applause for the two men would be appropriate. Immediately afterward, the director said, the entire group stood up and gave VanKuren and Burgert a standing ovation.

About 100 people attended the ceremony, which was broadcast live by area radio. Rev. Jason Guilliame made invocation. Stacy Jackson performed a solo, "God and Time," scripture and prayer was offered by Rev. Larry Jennings. Remembrances were given by Schuster; Bradford County Commissioner Janet Lewis; District Justice Tim Clark; retired Pennsylvania State Trooper Jack Felicita; Chief of Ridgebury Township Police Marty Rinebold; C.J. Walters of the Canton Borough Police Department; Deputy Deon Stringham; Deputy Denny Welch; Judge Jeffrey Smith and Bradford County Sheriff Steve Evans.

Schuster reported that the following radio dispatch was read over a police frequency by a county 911 dispatcher in VanKuren and Burgert's memory:

"BD1B and BD1C, this is Bradford County. Deputy Mike VanKuren and Deputy Chris Burgert, the people of Bradford County thank you for your dedication and protection of our community. You may now go 10-7, and forevermore by 10-8 in the service of God and our Lord Jesus Christ. You may now be gone, but you will never be forgotten."

Food donations appreciated

Bradford County Commissioner Doug McLinko on Wednesday commented on the food that was donated by the community for the post-funeral receptions at the courthouse. "Everybody in Bradford County" donated food for the event. "The response, the pouring out of sympathy, it was unbelievable," he said.

Nobody, the commissioner said, was looking for recognition - everyone made donations of food and other items anonymously.

A portion of the food was presented at the county courthouse on Tuesday where employees and the public were treated to lunch. In addition, McLinko said, many of the baked goods were offered in exchange for a donation to the families of the two deputies.

"The commissioners would like to thank everybody," McLinko said, about those were provided support during the event. "We can't thank everyone individually. There were just too many."


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