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2007 Candlelight Vigil

Introductory Remarks

By Craig W. Floyd, NLEOMF Chairman & CEO, May 13, 2007

"It is not how these officers died that made them heroes ... it is how they lived." Those words — so succinct, so eloquent — are not the words of a poet or a philosopher or a statesman. They are the words of a survivor — a remarkable woman, Vivian Eney Cross, whose husband, Christopher Eney, made the ultimate sacrifice in August 1984.

Tonight, they serve as a reminder of why we gather here each year . . . to remember, to marvel, and to celebrate thousands of fallen American heroes who made this world of ours a better place to live.

Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the Memorial Fund's board of directors, who have joined me here on the dais, it is my absolute privilege to welcome all of you here tonight. Our program begins this evening with:

Please rise for the presentation of the colors.  

His name was Gerrard Arnold. And he patrolled the streets of Alexandria, Virginia —- just a few miles from here. After 12 years of distinguished service, Watchman Arnold was ambushed and beaten to death in an act of retaliation for an arrest he had made several days earlier.

Gerrard Arnold's story is similar to so many others that we recall tonight . . . stories characterized by heroic deeds, a strong sense of purpose, and above all else, supreme sacrifice. But Gerrard Arnold also has a unique distinction. Of the 382 new names we officially add to the Memorial tonight, his is the oldest death we so honor. His end of watch was September 9, 1827, exactly 180 years ago. Until Memorial researchers recently uncovered his death, Gerrard Arnold's sacrifice had been a forgotten footnote of history. But, thankfully, he is forgotten no more. Tonight, we proudly welcome Gerrard Arnold and 381 others to their proper place of honor, this sacred ground that we call the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.

With all that our law enforcement professionals have done and continue to do for our country, it is hard to imagine how any officer's life or death could be overlooked. Yet, a recent Justice Department study helps to explain how this could happen. Only about one out of every five Americans has any direct contact with a law enforcement officer during the course of a year. Sadly, the vast majority of our citizens never get to see our officers up close and personal. They never hear the stories of Gerrard Arnold, or any one of the 18,000 other inspiring stories behind the names carved on these walls. More people need to hear those stories.

That is why our nation commemorates "National Police Week." That is why we built the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. That is why we lower the American flag to half-staff on May 15, Peace Officers Memorial Day.

And, that is why we are building the first-ever National Law Enforcement Museum right across the street from this Memorial. To signify the national importance of this Museum, I am pleased to report that former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton are the Co-Chairs of the Museum's National Honorary Campaign Committee. When it opens in 2011, this Museum will peel away some of the mystery that surrounds policing, debunk the myths, and help our citizens come to better understand and value the law enforcement profession and all who serve!

But, I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge at least one American citizen who needs no help understanding the importance of law enforcement service and sacrifice. His name is Tyler Minicozzi.

Tyler is a 4th grader in Reading, Pennsylvania — at first blush, pretty much a regular 9-year-old. But when Reading Police Officer Scott Wertz was shot and killed last August, he did not react like any normal nine-year-old.

Within days of Scott's death, Tyler took a simple idea — an old-fashioned lemonade stand - and dedicated himself to honoring the memory to Officer Wertz. His goal: raise $1,000 for the officer's wife, Tricia, and two young sons so they could go to Disney World.

Amazingly, it took just two days to reach his goal, so he decided to keep going. By the end of the week, young Tyler Minicozzi had raised more than $5,000 for Tricia and her two sons-a family he had never met.

On the day young Tyler delivered the money to the Wertz family, Tricia suggested that Tyler keep half the money so he and his family could also go to Disney World, Tyler would have none of it. "Oh, no. That money is all yours," he said.

Why did he do it? "Their dad was a cop," he said, "and he helped a lot of people, so I wanted to help their family because their dad helped everybody." A lesson to be remembered tonight and always.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are proud and honored to have Tyler Mincozzi here with us on the dais. At this time, I would like to ask Tyler to please stand and be recognized for all he has done to honor and respect not only Scott Wertz, but all law enforcement officers and their families.