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2006 Candlelight Vigil

Introductory Remarks

By Craig W. Floyd, NLEOMF Chairman & CEO, May 13, 2006

On average, one police officer is killed somewhere in America every 53 hours — that is more than 1,600 federal, state and local officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the last 10 years alone. There are now more than 17,500 names on these Memorial walls, dating back to the first death in 1792.
 
As if these reminders were not enough, our own local community was rocked this past week with news that a crazed gunman went to police stationhouse parking lot in Fairfax County, Virginia, and fired more than 70 shots at unsuspecting police officers. It was a cold-blooded ambush. When the shooting ended, Fairfax County Police Detective Vicky Armel — the mother of two young children — was dead, and Master Patrol Officer Michael Garbarino was critically injured.

Earlier today, Detective Armel was buried. Tonight, we all grieve for her loss, just as we grieve for the loss of every officer who has been taken from us before their time. Clearly, there is no tougher job for a police chief than to bury one of their own. Chief David Rohre of the Fairfax County Police Department experienced that grim task today. So, in a show of support and solidarity for him and his department, I would like us all to acknowledge Chief David Rohre's presence here on the dais tonight. We are honored to have him.

Thankfully, for the family of Vicky Armel, and for the many other families here tonight, we are doing a better job than ever before of properly honoring our fallen law enforcement heroes and their families. We have a national monument that has been built in their honor. There is a national support group for the families of officers killed in the line of duty called COPS — the Concerns of Police Survivors. Each year, on May 15, "Peace Officers Memorial Day," the flags of the United States are lowered to half-staff out of respect for the officers who have died, and their families.

There is also an important milestone that I believe is worthy of note. On Monday, May 15, the Fraternal Order of Police and their Auxiliary will host the 25th Annual "Peace Officers Memorial Day Service." It was that event in 1982 that launched so much of what you see tonight and throughout this week. At this time, it is my honor to ask FOP Grand Lodge Vice President David Hiller, FOP Auxiliary President Aliza Clark, and FOP Memorial Committee Chairman Marcello Muzzatti to please stand and be recognized for your organizations' vision and leadership.

These tributes are important. Just ask Ramsey Beckstead, the surviving spouse of Don Beckstead, an Arizona highway patrolman shot and killed during a traffic stop in 1971. Today, more than 30 years after her husband's death, she made her first visit to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. She saw his name on a national monument. She is sitting here tonight knowing that her loved one has not been forgotten . . . that her nation cares about her and her sacrifice. . . and that her husband's death was not in vain.

Hopefully, there is not a survivor here tonight who does not share those same feelings. And, to all of the peace officers here tonight, please know that you do not have to die to become a hero. We honor you tonight and always here at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial for all you do each and every day to serve and protect.