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National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial: 25 Years of Honor and Remembrance

America’s monument to fallen law enforcement officers celebrates its 25th Anniversary

October 13, 2016

National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial: 25 Years of Honor and Remembrance
America’s monument to fallen law enforcement officers celebrates its 25th Anniversary

WASHINGTON - The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial is celebrating its 25th Anniversary with its Run for the Badge, taking place at 9:00 am on October 15, 2016, on-site in Washington, DC, and virtually with participants from across the country. This fun, community-oriented, athletic event is designed to raise awareness and honor the men and women who serve in law enforcement while generating funds in support of the Memorial Fund.

"The Run for the Badge is a great opportunity to show support for America’s peace officers and thank them for all they do to keep our families and neighborhoods safe,” said Craig W. Floyd, President & CEO of the Memorial Fund. “This year, our event is especially meaningful as we celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the dedication of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial."

A brief history of the Memorial:

In 1972, Detective Donald Guilfoil of the Suffolk County (NY) Police Department proposed the idea for a national memorial honoring fallen peace officers. The cause was then championed by New York City Congressman Mario Biaggi, who had served for 23 years as a New York City policeman, retiring in 1965 as the Department’s most decorated officer. In 1984, the law he authored to establish the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial was passed by Congress and signed by President Ronald Reagan.

The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, a nonprofit organization, was formed to select a proper site and design for the Memorial, and raise all of the money to complete the project. Congressman Biaggi invited 15 national law enforcement organizations to sit on the Board of Directors, ensuring that this National Memorial represented the diversity of American law enforcement.

After more than two years of effort, Judiciary Square was selected as the site for the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. Thanks to the brilliance of architect Davis Buckley and sculptor Ray Kaskey, a world-class design was soon approved that would turn an ill-kempt park into what is now the crown jewel in one of the three major historical spaces in Washington, DC.

One of the toughest challenges Memorial Fund staff faced was finding the names that belonged on the Memorial walls. The FBI had records that dated back to 1961, but no one had ever documented all of the officers who had made the ultimate sacrifice throughout history. Staff and volunteers canvassed roughly 18,000 law enforcement agencies nationwide with letters and phone calls to ensure each officer was identified and considered for inclusion.

The Memorial construction cost $11 million, and every dollar came from private donations. More than a million citizens, along with corporate America, teamed up to ensure this monument was built. The National Memorial was truly a gift of appreciation from the American people to the peace officers who served them so well.

There are many examples of the generosity that went into building the National Memorial. The New York City PBA gave $500,000, more than any other single organization. Corporate titans like DuPont, Ford Motor Company, Mag Instrument, and Motorola all gave similarly impressive amounts. But no donation was any more generous than the elderly woman who sent in three 25-cent stamps—saying it was all she could afford, but she wanted to help build a monument for our officers.

The groundbreaking for the Memorial occurred on October 30, 1989. Two years later, on October 15, 1991, we dedicated law enforcement’s national monument. The dedication ceremony was preceded by a procession of law enforcement officers and survivors, who walked from the U.S. Capitol to the Memorial grounds, symbolizing the Memorial’s journey from the Halls of Congress to Judiciary Square. Leading the procession was disabled police officer Mark Frye, who had walked 100 miles on crutches from his Delaware home to attend the dedication.

Once at the Memorial grounds, 160 readers recited all 12,561 names that were inscribed on the Walls of Remembrance, taking 24 hours to complete.

At the dedication ceremony, with more than 25,000 people in attendance, President George H. W. Bush spoke eloquently about the Memorial and the people it honors. "They valued the law," he said. "They valued peace—the peace of a civilized community that protects children at play, families at home, and storekeepers at work. They valued human life—so much that they were prepared to give their lives to protect it."

The Memorial Fund mission continues:

But, the story did not end there. Instead, the Memorial’s dedication was only the beginning of an odyssey that continues to this day. By remembering and honoring the fallen, the Memorial has inspired an effort of historic proportions to promote officer safety and wellness. More than 300,000 people visit the Memorial annually to etch names and remember those who have fallen in the line of duty. Each year, the names of recently fallen officers, and many who had been forgotten until research staff and volunteers identified their service, are engraved into the marble walls and are dedicated each May 13th during an annual Candlelight Vigil.

And, now, construction is well underway on a museum that will finally and fully tell the story of American law enforcement. The National Law Enforcement Museum will open in 2018, and when it does, millions of visitors will learn what it’s like to be a law enforcement officer. The Museum will tell the story of American law enforcement through high-tech interactive exhibits, a comprehensive collection of artifacts, extensive resources for research, and diverse educational programming. Public programming available to Museum visitors will help bridge the gap between law enforcement and the communities they serve by providing guests with a better understanding of a day in the life of an officer.

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About the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund
Established in 1984, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund is a private non-profit organization dedicated to telling the story of American law enforcement and making it safer for those who serve. The Memorial Fund maintains the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, DC, which contains the names of 20,789 officers who have died in the line of duty throughout U.S. history. The Memorial Fund is now working to create the National Law Enforcement Museum, which will tell the story of American law enforcement through high-tech, interactive exhibitions, historical artifacts and extensive educational programming. For more information, visit www.LawMemorial.org.

Steve Groeninger
(202) 737-7135
Steve@nleomf.org