New Orleans - Hundreds of family members, federal, state and local law enforcement officers, elected officials and untold numbers watching via a live broadcast, gathered at the Louisiana Law Enforcement Officers Memorial on May 6 to pay homage to officers who had given their lives in the service of their Louisiana communities during 2009.
Two more names are now inscribed on the walls of the monument as Deputy Sheriff Richard J. Stiles, Jr., of East Feliciana Sheriff's Office, and Detective Robert Eugene Beane of Beauregard Parish Sheriff's Office, both of whom lost their lives in the line of duty last year, were added to the other 388 Louisiana officers who made the ultimate sacrifice.
In addition, legacy U. S. Customs Senior Inspector Thomas Murray's life and death were remembered by his family and peers along with the two fallen officers. Senior Inspector Murray died tragically on October 30, 2001, while searching the hold of a Panamanian ship he was inspecting at the Port of Gramercy, La. Two of the ship's crew members, including the captain, also entered the hold to assist Senior Inspector Murray and lost consciousness and collapsed. All three died as a result of asphyxiation likely caused by the oxidation of scrap iron in the hold.
Although Inspector Murray's name had already been inscribed on the granite walls of the memorial in 2002, neither his wife nor their children were present, as they were in the nation's capital as Murray was being enshrined at the National Law Enforcement Officer Memorial.
The ceremony was solemn, but the messages were powerful, as the survivors served as reminders of the many fallen heroes and not how they died but how they lived their lives.
CBP Area Port Director Mitch Merriam spoke of how Senior Inspector Murray's tragic passing had affected so many other law enforcement and maritime personnel throughout the world with the safety changes that are practiced today because of the accident that took his life.
He said, "In addition to the recurring training CBP officers receive, just two weeks ago, in that very same location on the river, SWAT teams conducted ship search training including lessons learned about the very same confined space threats that took Tom from us nine years ago. I'm here to say that one of Tom's lasting legacies is the training and awareness that continues to save lives now and will for years to come."
The responsibilities and potential ultimate sacrifice of CBP officers and all those who serve their nation and respective states as law enforcement officers was even more evident as the 21 gun salute volley pierced the quiet of the evening. And of all the military bugle calls, none is so easily recognized or renders more emotion than the call of taps; this night was no different.
Two more names are now inscribed on the walls of Louisiana Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, and Inspector Thomas Murray's life and death have been remembered anew, but this time with his family present, many of whom were watching via the live broadcast of the ceremony.
The Louisiana Law Enforcement Officers Memorial is a non-profit organization dedicated to honoring the lives and memories of Louisiana law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty and was dedicated at Lake Lawn Metairie Cemetery on May 17, 2002, after more than four years of fund raising and much hard work. Beginning with the first line of duty death in Louisiana in 1870, through the end of calendar year, these heroes are honored for their service to their respective communities, as well as for the sacrifice they made protecting the citizens of Louisiana.
Each year during National Police Week a memorial service is held at the monument where the names of the previous year's fallen officers are dedicated. The surviving family members are recognized and presented with a token of remembrance in honor of their loved one. A dinner is provided for new survivors after the service where counselors and previous year's survivors are able to support family and friends of the fallen officers.