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2005 Candlelight Vigil

Master of Ceremonies Remarks

By Craig W. Floyd, NLEOMF Chairman & CEO, May 13, 2005

Fourteen years ago, our nation dedicated this majestic monument to honor the members of our community who serve us and protect us. Many have died in the performance of their duties, others have been injured and, thankfully, many more continue to follow in their footsteps — carrying on their proud tradition of service and sacrifice. Tonight, we come to pay tribute to them all, and to their families.
 
Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the Memorial's board of directors, who have joined me here on the dais, it is my privilege to welcome all of you here tonight. Our program officially begins this evening with:

The presentation of the colors by the United States Park Police.

The national anthem to be performed by retired Detective Daniel Rodriguez of the New York City Police Department.

And, the invocation, which will be given tonight by Pastor Don Freitag, Chaplain of the Montgomery County Police Department.

Welcoming Remarks

Last year, soon after the murder of beloved Police Captain Michael Sparkes Sr., one of his colleagues asked, "I wonder if [those] who committed this terrible crime knew the kind of person that they took from us. And, would it have made a difference . . . if they had known that this was a loving husband, a loving father, a loving friend?"

It is a question that we all ponder tonight. So many decent and caring people taken from us. It is certainly a part of the story that cannot be ignored.

But, so much more of the story we tell tonight is about the hope that is ignited when brave men and women place the safety and well-being of others above their own.

Last month, during a visit to Arizona, Police Detective Bryan Soller and I were discussing the incident we all know simply as 9-11. I told him I honestly could not imagine rushing into those burning buildings. He responded, "I cannot imagine doing anything else."

For those of us who have never worn the badge, those sentiments are hard to comprehend. Why would any human being want to seek out danger? But, to a cop, confronting danger means you are making it safer for others. It may be about the demands of the job, but more than anything, it is about what these individuals demand of themselves.

Florida Highway Patrol Sergeant George A. Brown III, one of last year's fallen heroes, had a favorite quote that said a lot about him and all of the other officers we honor tonight: "What makes you a man is what you do when the storm comes." His son is now living those words. Sergeant Brown's wife had died of cancer the year before, which meant their 13-year-old son was left an orphan. Somehow, it strikes me that Sergeant Brown's son is going to be just fine, though. You see, while two important members of his immediate family are now gone, thousands more of his law enforcement family surround him tonight and will be supporting him always.

At the conclusion of tonight's ceremony, Retired New York City Detective Daniel Rodriguez will sing a powerful song called "Into the Fire." I hope you will listen carefully to the words. It is about a group of courageous individuals who rise up to take a stand, who are not afraid of darkness or danger, who are willing to walk into the fire if that is what it takes to win the battle for righteousness. Those words ring loud and true here tonight.

A curious occurrence took place recently when the death of Pope John Paul II was announced. The mourners in St. Peter's Square, after a moment of silence, broke into sustained applause. I learned that this is Italian custom that signifies hope at a time of death. I believe that is a custom worthy of practice here tonight. So, please join me now for a moment of silence for our fallen law enforcement heroes to be followed by grateful applause for the hope that they have given us all.

Introdoction of NLEOMF Founder Mario Biaggi 

And, tonight,as we reflect on the importance of this Memorial and the special people it honors, it is certainly appropriate to recognize the Memorial's founder. He is a highly decorated 23-year veteran of the New York City Police Department who was wounded 10 times in the line of duty. He went on to serve 20 years in the United States Congress where he became law enforcement's leading advocate. He is now 87 years old, but no matter the aches and pains, he refuses to miss our annual candlelight vigil, and we are so proud that he is here.

Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in recognizing the founder of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, former United States Congressman Mario Biaggi.

Recognition of Officers of the Month

The greatest tribute to those who have made the supreme sacrifice are the 870,000 officers who now carry on their proud tradition of law enforcement service. We honor all members of the "thin blue line" tonight, past and present.

And, earlier today at a special awards luncheon, we singled out some, who during the past year were honored as our "Officers of the Month," a program we are very proud of here at the Memorial Fund. Many of those officers performed death-defying feats . . . some simply performed ordinary assignments in an extraordinary way . . . all are exceptional examples of law enforcement in America today!

Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in a warm round of applause for the Memorial Fund's Officers of the Month for the year 2004.

Introduction of U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales 

This is the 17th consecutive year that we have held this "Tribute to America's Thin Blue Line." And, almost without exception, the Attorney General of the United States-the chief law enforcement officer of the land-has been our keynote speaker. Tonight, that cherished tradition continues.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is my honor and high privilege to introduce the Attorney General of the United States, Alberto Gonzales.

Recognition of Police Unity Tour

Ever since 1997, a growing group of law enforcement officers ride bicycles hundreds of miles from New Jersey and Virginia Beach, Virginia and converge at this Memorial during National Police Week. The motto of the Police Unity Tour is simple and powerful: "We ride for those who died." They refuse to allow our fallen officers to be forgotten.

At this time, I would like to ask Police Unity Tour founder and president Pat Montuore, along with Harry Phillips, Scott Humphrey, Mike Madonna, Debbie Shumaker and Jimmy Waldron to please stand and be recognized as the chief organizers of the Police Unity Tour.

Distinguished Service Award Presentation

Each year, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund selects an individual or organization who has made a lasting and exceptional contribution to the law enforcement profession and to the Memorial cause. We call it our "Distinguished Service Award" and we are honored to present it at this event, in front of the people who can appreciate the value of this award the most.

I am extremely pleased to announce that this year's award goes to Motorola, only the second time ever that this award has been given to a corporation. There are many important reasons for selecting Motorola to receive this award. This past May, Motorola became the lead corporate sponsor for the National Law Enforcement Museum, with a pledge of $3 million. By becoming the first corporate Founding Partner, Motorola helped to ensure that a national museum will soon open its doors across the street from this Memorial to honor the law enforcement profession and the incredible women who serve.

But Motorola's history of supporting the law enforcement profession dates back more than 65 years. They have been responsible for such important life-saving innovations as the walkie-talkie, car radios, the 911 emergency communications systems, and the crisis communications systems. And, they were one of the first corporate sponsors of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is for all of these reasons and more, that we now present our 2005 "Distinguished Service Award" to Motorola, which is being accepted by their Senior Vice President, Jim Sarallo.

Introduction of Annetta Dunn

Jim, I am very pleased to let you and everyone else here know that Motorola's leadership gift for the National Law Enforcement Museum has helped to create a path for others. In fact, I am proud to announce here tonight our two most recent Museum gifts: $500,000 from the New York City PBA and their president Pat Lynch; and $1 million from Mag Instrument. Thank you to them and to all of our other Museum Founding Partners.

Last year, the deadliest day for law enforcement occurred on June 17, 2004, when three officers from the Birmingham, Alabama Police Department were killed serving an arrest warrant. At this time, Birmingham Police Chief Annetta Dunn will honor us with a musical tribute in memory to them and all of the other fallen heroes of America we remember tonight.

Recognition of Survivors

Earlier this week, I attended a wonderfully inspiring Blue Mass in honor of our law enforcement officers. Terrence Cardinal McCarrick, the Archbishop of Washington officiated, and he said something that I would like to share with you tonight. He was speaking to the survivors in the congregation when he said, "Without your sacrifice, communities would live in fear, not safety." He extended the same message we extend tonight: "Thank you for your sacrifice."

At this time, we would be most honored if all of the survivors here tonight would please rise and let us recognize you for all that you and your loved one have given to help keep America safe.

Introduction of Shirley Gibson

Our next speaker, Mrs. Shirley Gibson, is a friend and an inspiration to many. On February 5, 1997, she experienced the pain of so many other survivors here tonight. Her son, Brian, while sitting in a patrol car at a stoplight, was gunned down in a cold-blooded act of revenge.

Years of separation from that event, and a determination to beat the pain and use a God-given gift to inspire and help others, has resulted in Shirley Gibson becoming the leading voice for police survivors in America today. She started the local DC chapter for COPS — the Concerns of Police Survivors — soon after Brian was killed. And, this past May, Shirley was elected National President of COPS — the first parent of a fallen officer ever to hold that position.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is my honor to introduce the National President of the Concerns of Police Survivors, Mrs. Shirley Gibson.

Introduction of Candle Lighting and Names Reading

Behind every name on these walls are stories and memories that burn brightly tonight and always-stories that inspire us and memories that cannot be extinguished. We will never forget these heroes of America, and as a symbol of that everlasting remembrance, we will now light the Memorial candle. I would like to invite Attorney General Gonzales and COPS' President Shirley Gibson to please come forward and do the honor. The flame will then be passed to each of you with the help of the trustees of the Concerns of Police Survivors.

When we dedicated this monument 12 years ago, there were 12,561 names on its marble walls. As a special tribute to those men and women, we read each of their names in a final "Roll Call of Honor." It lasted 24 hours.

Each year since, we have given that same honor to every name that has been added. We continue that tradition tonight with the reading of 415 names that we now officially dedicate. 153 of those officers died in 2004, and 262 were killed in prior years but were only recently discovered by Memorial researchers.

The names will be read by the Memorial's board of directors and other special guests. They will be read in alphabetical order from the state in which they served. At this time, I would like to ask the Attorney General of the United States, Alberto Gonzales, to begin the "Roll Call of Honor."

Closing Remarks

May these officers rest in peace, and may they never be forgotten.

Please rise for the Retreat of Colors.

(taps)

Ladies and gentlemen, that concludes our ceremony. We thank you for coming . . . and may God bless all of you and all of America's peace officers.