Honoring Our Fallen
This morning Commander David Bales presided over a ceremony honoring law enforcement officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the citizens of their communities. During the ceremony BLEA Class 701 presented the colors. The flag was lowered to half-staff in honor of the fallen. The invocation was conducted by Chaplain Joel Ingebritson of the King County Sheriff’s Office. Commander Bales then addressed attendees with the speech below.
Yesterday in Washington DC at the Law Enforcement Memorial, Attorney General Eric Holder presided over the addition of 286 names to the Memorial Wall – 100 individuals lost in 2013 and 186 recognized from prior years. Attorney General Holder noted this about those 286 men and women:
“[today we honor] the heroes who have given their lives in order that their fellow citizens might be safer, their neighborhoods more secure, and their communities and country not only stronger, but more just.
These heroes were military veterans who returned from foreign battlefields to serve their states, cities, towns and tribal communities. They were young adults who aspired from an early age to stand on the front lines of our fight for security and justice. They were federal agents who faced down some of the most dangerous criminals in the world. They were decorated, lifelong officers who, after decades of service on the force, still put on their badges with pride every morning. And each of them represented the very finest this country had to offer – and the best qualified among us to lead, to serve, and to give.
These officers died doing what they were trained – and sworn – to do: saving the lives of their colleagues, protecting innocent bystanders from harm, subduing and apprehending dangerous suspects, and pursuing desperate criminals who attempted to flee from justice.”
Attorney General Holder appropriately notes the many examples of conspicuous bravery encompassed in the stories of those 286 men and women. But I would suggest that, rather than their acts of bravery, today we should reflect upon their commitment to courage.
Some might ask, aren’t these the same thing? Consider the sacrifice of Trooper Sean O’Connell. Trooper O’Connell died doing what he did every day – directing traffic. He had no opportunity to contemplate the action that was to take his life. Does this make his commitment or sacrifice any less significant?
Eric Greitens notes the difference between courage and bravery. He says “Courage has a hue even deeper than bravery, and that is perseverance. It is perseverance that builds. Great things are won and lasting things are built not in a flash of action, but in a long slow quiet series of everyday acts performed over a lifetime of steady effort. It is, in fact, the courage to do the things that we must do, day after day, that enables us to meet the greatest challenges. Lives flourish and justice is done by steady force of human beings who proceed with a quiet, persistent courage.”
So today, we remember their sacrifice and that of their family and friends. We admire those acts of bravery that occurred – but we commit ourselves to emulate their courage. The courage of Trooper O’Connell to put on the badge every day and do what had to be done.
Please join us in reflecting on these words and honoring the fallen and their families.