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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.
We want to welcome and extend a very special thank you to all of the survivors who have joined us tonight. You have honored us 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 31 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 of New York. Congressman Biaggi is now 97 years old and his health does not allow him to be with us, but we will always remember him and be thankful for this tremendous tribute to American law enforcement.
Dedicated in 1991, this Memorial now bears the names of 20,538 federal, state, local, tribal and territorial officers who have made the supreme sacrifice, dating back to the first officer fatality in 1791. Their tragic fate was a life cut short, but their just reward is eternal remembrance.
It is not enough, though, to simply engrave their names in stone. Their inspiring stories of courage and compassion need to be told, and there is certainly a need—now more than ever—to help our citizenry better understand law enforcement’s essential role in our free and democratic society.
That is why our organization has been working tirelessly for the last 15 years to build a National Law Enforcement Museum. I am pleased to report that all of the design work has been completed, the public approvals have been obtained and we have a building permit in hand. More than $54 million has been raised through the generosity of caring citizens and corporations.
The Museum will be constructed right across the street from this Memorial. The District of Columbia Government has authorized the sale of tax-exempt industrial revenue bonds to help complete the financing of the Museum. We hope to close on that bond sale later this summer and begin construction immediately thereafter.
At events like this, we often remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice or performed heroic deeds. But, sometimes, heroic deeds are present in the smallest of gestures, especially when it comes from a young child. Last year, there was a lot of negativity directed toward law enforcement. But, it was difficult to understand, especially for a child. After all, our officers were suffering injury and death while working to keep our communities safe and secure.
So, when many were questioning and second-guessing the actions of our officers, a young girl from Texas had other ideas. She was concerned for our officers and wanted to do something to show her support. During last year’s Christmas break, she sprang into action, writing hundreds of thank you cards to police officers in New York and her home state of Texas. She delivered many in person, across East Texas, in Houston, Dallas and Austin.
Her message was simple and straight from the heart: "Dear Police Officers,” she wrote. “My name is Savannah Solis and I am 10 years old. I just want to say thank you for taking care of us every day. You are my hero and you’re brave too. You matter to me and I pray that God will protect you. Keep watching out for us. Love, Savannah."
As she delivered her touching messages, many tough, brawny law enforcement officers were brought to tears.
So tonight, we want to return the favor and say thank you to Savannah Solis, who is here with us, along with her parents, Scott and Debbie Solis. Savannah, on behalf of the thousands of law enforcement officers and families here tonight, and the hundreds of thousands around the nation, we thank you for speaking up and delivering an important message of appreciation when America’s law enforcement officers needed to hear it the most. Savannah aspires to be a K-9 officer one day, but for now she is simply one of law enforcement’s greatest citizen supporters. Please join me in a round of applause for this very special young lady, Savannah Solis.