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2007 Candlelight Vigil

Remarks from the Attorney General of the United States

By The Honorable Alberto Gonzales, U.S. Attorney General, May 13, 2007

Several weeks ago FBI Agent Barry Bush was shot and killed in the line of duty. My wife, Rebecca, and I attended the memorial services along with the Director and his wife. I did not know Barry personally but after listening to a number of tributes by just a few of those who loved him, I learned that he was considered a loyal friend, a tough professional, a loving father and a faithful husband. Those who paid homage to this warrior spoke of a man who was so strong and so steadfast that he seemed almost invulnerable. There was no way he could be taken down.

It's how we feel every time an officer falls. The shock can take our breath away. But Agent Bush did not die alone; a long time friend of Barry’s reassured his wife Karen that in the last moments of his life Barry was surrounded by people who loved him. And, all of you who have suffered a similar loss, you are not alone.

These marble walls hold the names of nearly 18,000 officers…federal, state, and local… killed in the line of duty. But this is not a crypt. This is truly a memorial. It is a place for remembering and for celebrating these lives. It is a place for us to give thanks for these members of the brotherhood who lived as heroes and who died too young. It is a beautiful place, filled with light and peace, where children climb and play on the bronze lions, and where, when we're quiet, the names speak to us.

Tonight, just as we are thankful for the sacrifices of these officers, we are thankful for the sacrifices of their families. My little brother Tony is a SWAT officer, and a 28-year veteran of the Houston Police Department. I’ve always been proud of his dedication to the force. And I have been just as proud of his wife, Kris, who hugs Tony as he goes to work each day, knowing that he faces unknown dangers with every call.

Countless wives and husbands and children and siblings across America know what it's like to sit, and wait, and hope, for the end of one more shift. And they know the feeling of relief when their loved one walks through the door, safe, one more time. Too often, for too many families, those nights of safe homecomings simply run out. One hundred forty-five law enforcement officers didn't make it home last year. Each of them has a story, and I hope you'll forgive me for talking about a couple of examples from my home state of Texas.

Constable Dale David Geddie of Smith County, Texas, had gone into law enforcement following in the footsteps of his father, a former Smith County sheriff's deputy. On June 7th of last year, Constable Geddie and another officer responded to a domestic disturbance call. The suspect, armed with a deer rifle and more than 150 rounds of armor-piercing ammunition, opened fire on the officers as they exited their patrol vehicle. Both were shot, Constable Geddie fatally.

A month earlier, Patrolman Gregory Dean Stewart from the Beeville, Texas, Police Department and another officer were off duty in San Antonio for Army National Guard training when three armed suspects attempted to rob them. Patrolman Stewart fought with one of the suspects, who opened fire as he fled the scene. Patrolman Stewart died a week later from his wounds; he was 32 years old.

We all know that there is no such thing as "off duty," and we all know the danger of even the most routine domestic disturbance call or traffic stop. I wanted to tell you these two stories not because they are unusual, but because they are so tragically typical. You've all heard these stories before, though with different names. Sometimes they have been the names of your loved ones, friends, and colleagues.

I know that it's difficult for some families and friends to be here tonight. I know our first instinct at an event like this one is to be sad; but our grief also gives way to humility, and to pride. Inscribed on this memorial are the words, "In valor, there is hope."

Our hope is there in the thin black stripes on badges; it is there in the bagpipes; it is there in flags at half staff. Our hope is there in these carved names, reminding us of the heroism of the fallen men and women. They thought the future and safety of their fellow citizens was important enough to risk their lives to protect it, and our hope for the future is part of how we honor them.

We cannot help but feel heartsick tonight, as we light our candles and remember the sacrifices of these brave men and women. But they deserve more than our sadness — they deserve our pride in the lives they led, our hope for the future, and our continued dedication to their work of making this country safe. This memorial is home to all these emotions; I hope that it will bring you comfort and peace.

May God watch over and protect every one of us; may he bless you all, and may he continue to bless the United States of America.