2008 Candlelight Vigil
Remarks from the Attorney General of the United States
By The Honorable Michael Mukasey, U.S. Attorney General, May 13, 2008
Thank you, Craig, and thanks also to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund for making this event and the memorial possible.
It is a solemn honor to be here both to remember and to celebrate the lives and contributions of these fallen public servants. The walls of this memorial bear the names of more than 18,000 men and women who wore the badges and uniforms of law enforcement, and who gave their lives so that we can continue to lead ours.
The mission of law enforcement is to protect and to serve; for everyone involved in that mission, there is always the potential that protecting and serving can lead to sacrifice. That potential is part of the code honored not only by every officer and agent, but also by every spouse, child, and family member. It is a special burden they bear to give the rest of us the safety and peace we sometimes take for granted.
As Attorney General, part of my job is to work with the fine men and women of our law enforcement agencies and departments. I was inducted into that fraternity by appointment, not by any special merit of mine. Yet wherever I have traveled, I have met with local police and federal agents and marshals, and I've been welcomed by all of them as a fellow member of the corps. It has been one of the honors of my office to call these men and women my colleagues.
We've added the names of 358 officers to these walls this year. Let me share a few of their stories.
Special Agent Barry Bush, of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, was killed last April 5th, in a terrible friendly-fire accident while searching for three robbery suspects. Federal agents were pursuing three suspects in a series of bank robberies in New Jersey. They stopped the suspect vehicle, exchanged shots, and Agent Bush was struck.
Deputy Marshal Bucky Burke of the U.S. Marshals Service, died September 18th while training in Glynco, Georgia. He and his classmates had just finished an arrest technique exercise and started a five-mile run when he suffered a fatal heart attack.
Special Agent Kimberly Place of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, was killed August 1st, in an auto accident. She was returning from an enforcement operation in Springfield, Massachusetts, when another driver lost control of his speeding vehicle and struck Agent Place's car head-on. Both drivers died instantly.
I tell the stories of these three in part because those who died served as dedicated members of the Department of Justice and its law enforcement components. But I also tell these stories because they are tragically typical.
A stray bullet during a heated pursuit; a freak incident not during action, but during the training for action; a chance accident when the operation was supposed to be over and the danger past. They're noteworthy examples not because they're unusual, but because they are so heartbreakingly familiar.
We are here tonight for a solemn purpose. These walls are about sacrifice, and courage, and grief. But these walls are also about hope and love. They are here as evidence in stone that we will never forget these men and women. Like the tri-folded flag and the black armband, they are symbols of the commitment these men and women brought to their mission.
Law enforcement is not about badges and uniforms. It is about taking a stand to preserve the rights of our neighbors, and shielding them from danger. The officers listed on these walls stood their ground, did their jobs, and along with their families and friends, paid the highest price. That is the legacy of these brave men and women, and it is a legacy that time cannot diminish.
Each name on these walls belongs to a person who was devoted to serving the public and to protecting this nation, and we honor their memory. May God rest their souls. And may each of you who is honoring a loved one no longer with us find strength in those who have gathered here tonight, and in those not here but who have dedicated themselves to carrying on the mission.
Thank you very much.