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“A nation reveals itself not only by the men [and women] it produces but also by the men [and women] it honors, the men [and women] it remembers.”
This quotation from President John F. Kennedy, captures the essence of why we have gathered here tonight—to express a heartfelt tribute to our law enforcement professionals who serve us so well and have sacrificed so much in the name of public safety.
It should come as no surprise, then, to learn that it was President Kennedy who signed the law designating May 15 of each year as “Peace Officers Memorial Day,” and the seven days that surround it as “National Police Week.”
Thirty-five years ago, I had the good fortune of going to work for a Congressman from New York City named Mario Biaggi. Like President Kennedy, Congressman Biaggi understood the importance of honoring and remembering our law enforcement professionals. He served for 23 years with the New York City Police Department and it was Congressman Biaggi who authored the law to build this national monument. The Congressman is now 95 years old and unable to join us every year at this Vigil, as he once did. But, he would be extremely proud if he were able to look out at this massive crowd here tonight.
Thanks to my work with the Congressman, and later with the Memorial Fund, I have been amazed and inspired by the stories I have heard and the people I have met in the law enforcement profession. My greatest wish is that all of our citizens could have that same opportunity, which is why we are working so hard to build the National Law Enforcement Museum across the street from this Memorial.
Two years from now, when that Museum opens, visitors will get to hear the story of a one-armed Prohibition Inspector from Dickenson County, Virginia, named John Mullins. Inspector Mullins was gunned down in front of a courthouse by a bootlegger bent on revenge. The year was 1926 and tonight, nearly 90 years later, his name is being etched on these Memorial walls, with his granddaughter, Jenny Cooper, here to see it.
Visitors will be introduced to a courageous lawman named James Kuzak, who was shot five times at close range and paralyzed when he confronted two cold-blooded criminals during a home invasion. Despite his debilitating injuries, Officer Kuzak has been steadfast in his desire to remain active in law enforcement by helping other officers who have been involved in similar critical incidents. Officer Kuzak is one of our 2012 “Officers of the Month” listed in your program and he has honored us with his presence here tonight.
And, visitors to that Museum will learn about a Colorado Corrections Sergeant named Mary Ricard who was stabbed to death by an inmate last September. They will find out that Sergeant Ricard gave up her career as a pastry chef to work in prisons—because she wanted to make a difference and change lives. Visitors will hear these words spoken about her: “In all things, Mary gave us kindness, honesty and above all, courage.” Her colleagues and family members are with us here tonight for the official dedication of her name on the Memorial walls.
And, of course, visitors to the Museum will learn so many of the heroic law enforcement stories of this past year. From the rapid response to the mass shootings by crazed killers in Aurora, Colorado and Newtown, Connecticut, to the rescue effort in the aftermath of Super Storm Sandy, to the deadly confrontation with a rogue cop in Big Bear Lake, California, it is hard to imagine a 12-month period when law enforcement’s service was needed or valued more.
Certainly, there was no greater evidence of this fact than what transpired on April 15 in Boston, Massachusetts. As thousands gathered to watch the finish of the Boston Marathon, two terrorists detonated bombs that killed three persons and injured 264 others. The terrorists went on to kill MIT Police Officer Sean Collier and MBTA Transit Police Officer Richard Donohue was seriously injured.
By week’s end, though, law enforcement ended the reign of bloodshed by killing one of the terrorists and capturing the other. It was truly a display of federal, state and local law enforcement working together at its very best.
And, tonight, we are extremely honored to have with us on the dais some of the leaders in the Boston Marathon bombing investigation. They include: Director Robert Mueller of the FBI; Superintendent Timothy Alben of the Massachusetts State Police; Superintendent Willie Gross of the Boston Police Department; Chief John DiFava from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Police Department, and Chief Ed Deveau of the Watertown Police Department. I would like to ask all of them to please stand so that we can express our appreciation to them and their officers.