Readers respond: Visiting the Wall
Sergeant Brantner Smith,
First of all, thank you for your articles, I enjoy reading them. Secondly, yes it is disturbing that the Police memorial is not better represented in travel guides. You may wish to look into participation in the Police Unit Tour. Take a moment to view the site and contact your closest chapter to become a member, It is the most intense three days you will ever have and is a very rewarding time with fellow officers all raising money to take care of the memorial, support survivors and build the Hall of Remembrance in the new museum. We have pledged all of the money to build that part of the museum, What others do to honor or remember our fallen is of no consequence, and something we have no control over. We control what we do to remember and honor them and how we serve each other in a time of need. We ride from Portsmouth to D.C. with California and Virginia. We have two routes from Portsmouth because of the size of the groups riding. We meet with the northern chapters at the pentagon and then they all ride in to the memorial together. Last year we were 1,300 strong on the last leg after gathering all together at the Pentagon. Our Chapter along with riders from California and Chapter 4 Virginia escort survivors from their busses on the final walk to their seats for the candlelight vigil. It will bring the strongest to their knees. http://www.policeunitytourviii.org/ Feel free to contact me if you have any questions that I may be able to answer. I will be on the tour again this year as support to our riders. It is a bittersweet journey to touch the name of a fellow officer who I worked with for 30 years. "We ride for those who died" is our motto. We honor them and cherish our time together and become a conduit for healing for each other, especially the "new members," the survivors of the years fallen. I have attached a remembrance I wrote last year for Bo. It is listed on his ODMP, along with the link to his page.
Capt. Sandra K. Reed #163
Thank you for your time.
Pasco Sheriff's Office
Dade City, Fla.
End of Watch
Shards of red and blue light pierce the tree canopy as the caravan moves toward its destination. Through rear windows in the ambulance, I see the medic, perched on the chest of the fallen. The doors open, and I see his tears falling on his fingers as he feverishly works to restore this life. ER personnel stand transfixed. Unable to process the surreal sight of a blood soaked uniform with a medic riding the chest of this mortal hero. Events transpire in slow motion over the next few minutes as this army of medical staff attempt to perform some miracle that will return this soul to friends and family, but God has already called him home. On scene, we move about in disbelief as the words fall heavily over the air…he is gone. As the vanguard of Heavens gate receives a new warrior, the sirens echo eulogies across the darkness of a summer night. Our hearts break, our resolve strengthens and with a new clarity of purpose we move forward. Hold your perimeter, stay the course, we still have a job to do. This is like every other homicide yet like no other. He hovers above us, watching our toil, resting his hand on our shoulders assuring us we will survive this, the deepest cut we have ever suffered. One step at a time, bonding together to ease the pain, working each task as always, to completion, to trial and conviction. We have now joined the ranks of the victims … the survivors.
Now we gather in memory of your life, to raise awareness of your sacrifice, along with all of the others who are with you. We vow to build a great hall where your deeds will be remembered by those who loved you and others who simply wish to pay tribute. Each year, we ride from all corners of this great Nation and from all over the world to be near, to remember, to mourn our collective losses. We will help those who have found themselves thrust into our presence by some similar unfortunate fate. We will be here, to hold them up as we all struggle to endure. To give them some measure of strength as theirs seems to wane. To walk them down that long aisle as eyes watch. To hold them close; clutched to a uniform, a presence, a bond only we can share. The souls of the 18,000 walk among us, gently lifting those who would fall, steadying the step of those who falter, shielding us from the pain we feel as only their loving memory can do. The task at hand is great and we are humbled. With each step we stand taller, transformed in the strength of their collective souls. As night falls a brilliant blue light pierces the darkness, and the souls of the 18,000 take to the night sky and form a barrier between calm and chaos, they are the thin blue line, if only for this night and in this hallowed place. We Remember…
Section 3 Row 24 West Wall (3-24-W) is the hallowed place where Bo’s name is inscribed. It has taken four years for me to be able to write this tribute. The pain is still fresh and the wound deep. You are missed, there is a void in our hearts that will forever echo your departure.
Your article about the memorial in the PoliceOne newsletter today was moving, and I just wanted to send along my thoughts. I've been a cop for two and a half years, and I'm ashamed to say I've only driven past the memorial even though I live and work in southern Maryland. I'm planning on going to police week this year in May to really take in all that the memorial and being together with so many of my brothers/sisters in law enforcement has to offer. I've heard so many great things about the memorial and how we should appreicate it more, and your article really brought that point home. I'm a young cop too (24 years old), and I've seen, especially with younger guys, that invincible "It'll never happen to me" attitude. I know I've fallen into that mentality too, but with reading about all the fatal officer-involved shootings in 2007 I've tried to keep focus on the constant dangers we face everyday. I appreciate your wisdom along with those officers in my department who've been around a while to offer advice and keep us young guys on the right path. Thanks again for your years of service and insight on the memorial. I could not have agreed with it more.
Deputy Kevin P. Meyer #186
St. Mary's County Sheriff's Office
Patrol Division, Squad 1
It's the same for military and law enforcement. With the Christmas season just gone, there is a song that is in "White Christmas" where they sing about a retired general. And the phrase is ["Here comes the general" and they all say "General who?" / They're delighted that he came / But they can't recall his name]. It's become epidemic in our society to limit the powers of law enforcement. And they are glad we come to a fight but not a party. Even those of us who are reserves in law enforcement are somewhat shunned by full-timers, even though we carry the same firearms and drive the same cars and are trained in the same manner. We just don't get paid.
I had a black gentleman who was quite inebriated telling me as he swayed back and forth that I was just prejudiced since he was black. I quietly came back with, "You don't know discrimination till you wear the blue uniform and no one likes you until they are in trouble." He gave me a grin and said, "Welcome bro." He calmed down when I told him that he was not being arrested but just going to detox so he wouldn't walk in front of a bus again.
Hillsboro, Oregon, Police Department
I share your sentiments about remembering and honoring those who have given their all.
I am a police writer and the national field trainer for Advanced Public Safety.
As part of every class that I teach, I spend about 30 minutes on the Wall. I have a video that I got a couple of years ago from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund; I share the book with all of the names in it; I pass around the program from the last candlelight vigil; I share the stories and rubbings of two of the fallen whom I knew; and I close with a letter from a 13-year-old girl to her fallen father that I found taped to the wall during Police Week. Usually about half the class is teary-eyed when I’m done.
It’s a story that can’t be told too often.
We must never forget.
Thank you for the effort you are making.