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2014 Candlelight Vigil

Welcoming Remarks

By Craig W. Floyd, Memorial Fund Chairman & CEO, May 13, 2014

Tonight, we remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice in law enforcement service.  But, we also pay a very special tribute to the surviving family members who have been left behind.

One of those survivors is Lois Ogan, the 82-year-old surviving spouse of Grinnell, Iowa Patrolman Ralph Ogan, who was shot and killed during a burglary in 1963.  His name was inscribed when these Memorial walls were dedicated 23 years ago.  But tonight is Lois’s first visit to the Memorial.  She is accompanied by her daughter, Roberta.  

We want to welcome Lois and Roberta, and extend a very special thank you to all of the survivors who have joined us tonight.  You have honored and inspired us by your presence.  Please look around and see the thousands of members of your extended law enforcement family standing shoulder to shoulder with you.  We will never forget your loved one, and we will never forget you.

At this time, I would like to ask all of the survivors of a fallen officer to please stand and allow us to recognize and thank you for the supreme sacrifice that you and your loved one have made to keep America safe.

It was 30 years ago, in 1984, that a federal law was enacted to establish this National Memorial.  The author of that law was United States Representative Mario Biaggi.  Congressman Biaggi is now 96 years old and his health does not allow him to be with us, but we are honored to have his son, Richard, and granddaughter Alessandra, in attendance.

Congressman Biaggi’s vision was to have a monument in our Nation’s Capital that would pay tribute on a daily basis to the men and women who have dedicated their lives to preserving public safety.  This monument was dedicated in 1991.  

A decade later, another historic initiative was launched by our organization—to build the first-ever National Law Enforcement Museum to complement this Memorial.  It has been a long time in the making, but I am very pleased to report that all of the design work has been completed and approved, all of the underground infrastructure is in place and a building permit is in hand.  We have raised more than $54 million to build the Museum and are in the process of closing on a construction loan to give us the remaining funds needed.  We expect to begin the major construction work this summer and complete the work in 2016.  

The heart and soul of the Museum will be the Hall of Remembrance.  It is there that the inspirational stories behind the names on these Memorial walls will be told.  One of those stories will profile a Las Vegas police officer named David Van Buskirk.

Last July, a hiker became stranded on a Las Vegas mountainside.  He was stuck on a ledge, but with the aid of a cell phone the hiker was able to call for help.  It was nighttime and bad weather was going to make a rescue mission treacherous, but police determined the hiker could not survive on the narrow mountain ledge overnight.

David Van Buskirk was a veteran of the Search and Rescue team.  He had saved hundreds of lives before that night.  A colleague said he “lived for that moment where he could help others in need.”  And so, it was Officer Van Buskirk who reached the stranded hiker on that narrow ledge late at night.  He secured a cable from the rescue helicopter to the hiker and himself and began to be hoisted up to safety.  The hiker made it to the helicopter safely, but Officer Van Buskirk did not.  Something went terribly wrong and the 13-year police veteran fell to his death. He lost his life saving another, a familiar theme for all of the officers we honor tonight.

Recently, the family of Officer Van Buskirk reached out to the hiker who was saved that night.  They knew he was suffering and wanted to offer some comforting words; that is the special cloth that our law enforcement professionals and their families are cut from.

And, it is the inspirational stories of people like David Van Buskirk that will serve as the foundation for the National Law Enforcement Museum, both figuratively and literally.  Over the next few days, we will have containers placed near the Memorial’s directories.  We would like you to do an extra etching of your loved one, colleague or friend’s name and place it in one of those containers.  They will be collected at the end of Police Week and those etchings will be placed in the foundation of the Museum when construction starts this summer.   

At events like this, we often remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice or performed heroic deeds—as well we should.  But, sometimes, we forget to give proper recognition and support to those officers who have been disabled or seriously injured in the line of duty.  Tonight, we would like to acknowledge one of those officers and his amazing story of hope. 
 
On February 27, 2013, Alexandria, Virginia Police Officer Peter Laboy pulled over a suspicious person driving a taxi cab near an elementary school playground full of children.  During the traffic stop he was shot in the head and suffered a catastrophic brain injury.  Doctors said that most people would not have survived.  But, miraculously, Peter Laboy has done more than just survive.  Nicknamed “Superman” by his friends and colleagues, he described his recovery this way, “I was not going to give up.  I was going to keep fighting until I got better.”  

The last year has not been easy for Peter and his family.  He has had to relearn just about everything and is now dealing with a new normal in his life.  But he is doing all of this with a smile on his face.  His goal now in his own words is to “just keep going forward.”  

Tonight, Alexandria Police Officer Peter Laboy has honored us with his presence on the dais.  He is joined by his wife, Suzanne, who has been his partner and source of strength throughout the recovery process.  I would like both to please stand and be acknowledged for inspiring us all with your story.