Over the years I’ve had the honor of attending Police Memorial Week ceremonies in Washington, D.C., Cleveland, and several other locations around the country. I am always moved by the sense of strength and character that these ceremonies stir in our hearts. One certainly can see why, centuries ago, the English feared the bagpipes and considered them a weapon-of-war when facing the Scots — they seem to reverberate in our very core as the ceremony unfolds and the sounds of “Amazing Grace” brings a burning to our eyes.
I will be in Cleveland for that city’s observance this year, seeing many old friends and making new ones at our Street Survival Seminar there. These events are an intense bonding experience and I encourage all of you to get to your local ceremony if you aren’t fortunate enough to be at one of the major national ones this year.
Last Fall I did a little family pilgrimage –– one of those private and personal missions that fills you and your family with the awe and pride we should all feel for those who have served us so well and paid the ultimate sacrifice. We took our youngest daughter for a weekend at D.C. and walked from Lincoln to the Wall. What an amazing display of sacrifice! One after the other they appear as you walk the Mall: Vietnam, Korea, WWII, Civil War Heroes, and on and on as you walk...it is what free men and women should never forget.
You breathe history as you walk and soon you are standing before the Law Enforcement Memorial Wall. Lions surround it and in the solitude of the few folks there on regular days, days with no pomp and no celebration, the Wall draws you to its most powerful message...its names. Not just the ones you look up because they are your special brothers and sisters, but the ones that you notice as you step back from shadowing in the name of your friend who died so long ago.
You suddenly realize they are all your friends, all family...all yours. You can’t take them all rubbed into a piece of paper, but you will take them back with you. You will turn and look at all the names — thousands of them — and when you read them one at a time, think: “friend.”
So you and your family will go from the Wall back to your home, but the Wall will never go from you. In these special times such as Memorial Week, whether we have to work or we get to go to a ceremony, we stop and think, “Thank God for Freedom, and thank you, my friend, for paying so dearly for it.”