ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE – Police Week began on Oct. 1, 1962, when President John F. Kennedy signed a public law, designating May 15 of each year as 'Peace Officers Memorial Day' and the week in which it falls as 'Police Week.'
In 1994, President Clinton signed another public law, directing that the flag of the United States be flown at half-staff on all government buildings on May 15. National Police Week pays special recognition to those law enforcement officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty for the safety and protection of others.
It is appropriate that we take time each year to honor our law enforcement professionals. Police work is inherently dangerous. On average, one law enforcement officer is killed in the line of duty, somewhere in the U.S., every 53 hours.
Since the first known line-of-duty death in 1791, more than 22,000 U.S. law enforcement officers have made the ultimate sacrifice to include 12 from Guam and 36 military police officers. So far in 2016, 35 U.S. police officers have died in the line of duty.
On May 13, more than 20,000 gathered at the National Law Enforcement Officer Memorial in our nation’s capital to honor the 128 law enforcement officials who were killed in the line of duty in 2015; including four U.S. Air Force Defenders and four Air Force Office of Special Investigations agents:
- Senior Airman Nathan Sartain and Airman 1st Class Kcey Ruiz, both assigned to the 66th Security Forces Squadron at Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts, were performing fly-away security for a U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules that crashed on Oct. 2, 2015.
- On Dec. 21, 2015, Tech. Sgt. Joseph Lemm, Staff Sgt. Louis Bonacasa, Special Agents Adrianna Vorderbruggen, Chester McBride, Peter Taub and Michael Cinco were killed by a suicide bomber near Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan.
These Airmen, along with Guam Police Department Officer Siegfred D. R. “Dove” Mortera, who passed away as a result of a training incident in the line of duty on Feb. 14, 2015, will have their names inscribed on the memorial’s walls.
These nine heroes join the ranks of 10 GPD officers, one Guam Department of Agriculture Officer and a Guam Department of Corrections officer whose names are already on the memorial wall.
As we think of these brave officers, I recall an inscription on the memorial: "It is not how these officers died that made them heroes, it is how they lived."
There are more than 900,000 law enforcement officers in the U.S. that make up the Thin Blue Line. The Thin Blue Line has long been a symbol of our nation’s law enforcement.
The blue represents our police officers and the courage they must find in order to stand in harm’s way time and time again. The black around it represents their fallen comrades. Every time an officer is killed in the line of duty, it is said that the thin blue line gets just a little bit thinner. The line itself is the strongest symbol and it is the very reason why these men and women choose to serve – it represents the barrier between good and evil, anarchy and civil society, the barrier between the innocent and the predators. In this world, there are wolves and there are sheep … WE are the sheepdog.
The more than 240 Andersen Defenders are part of nearly 25,000 Airmen charged with protecting and defending bases worldwide from “the wolf”… Fully knowing that each shift they begin could be their last, reminded daily by the legacy of valor established by the 159 fallen Air Police, Security Police and Security Forces members.
Like our local, state, and federal comrades, they hunt the things that go bump in the night; run toward the sound of gunfire, confront those who wish to do us harm. As I look at these sheepdogs, and think of those like them, I am reminded of yet another inscription from the national memorial: "In valor there is hope."