President Obama Honors Fallen Officers at National Peace Officers' Memorial Service
The sun was shining, but the mood was solemn on the west front lawn of the U.S. Capitol on Saturday when President Barack Obama joined thousands of law enforcement officers who had gathered from across the country to pay tribute to those killed in the line of duty and the loved ones they left behind.
The President, who spoke at the National Peace Officers' Memorial Service, the nation's largest and most prominent memorial service held on behalf of fallen law enforcement officers, offered condolences to the survivors and thanks to the officers still serving.
"To the survivors of the fallen law enforcement officers, our hearts go out to you for your loss," Obama said. "All Americans are grateful for the lives that they gave in the line of duty. To the active duty law enforcement officers who traveled from all over the country to be here, let me simply say -- thank you. Thank you for the service that you are rendering to our nation. Thank you for the sacrifices that you are making on behalf of our people."
The President also noted that Americans "rely on a certain order in our lives, a certain sense of security. It lets us sleep safely in our beds and walk around our neighborhoods free from fear and go about our daily lives without being the victims of crime. That sense of security doesn't come on its own," he said. "What makes it possible -- what makes freedom possible -- are the law enforcement officers that we honor today."
According to data from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, a nonprofit organization dedicated to honoring law enforcement officers in the U.S., in 2009, 116 officers died in the line of duty, a decline from 2008, when there were 138 deaths. Two Customs and Border Protection employees, Senior Patrol Agent Cruz C. McGuire and Border Patrol Agent Robert W. Rosas Jr., were among those who were honored at this year's ceremony.
"At this 29th memorial service, we are honoring one of the lowest number of fallen heroes in many years," said Chuck Canterbury, national president of the Fraternal Order of Police, who hosted the ceremony. "But any year that we are forced to come here and read the name of even a single law enforcement officer is one too many."
The National Peace Officers' Memorial Service, sponsored by the Fraternal Order of Police and the Fraternal Order of Police Auxiliary, is held annually. It is the culminating event of National Police Week, which
began this year on May 10. More than 20,000 law enforcement officers as well as surviving family members and friends of slain officers traveled to the nation's capital to participate in the service. (CBP 2010 Ceremonies Honor Fallen Heroes)
CBP 's Honor Guard, a trained, voluntary, ceremonial team that commemorates the lives of fallen officers, provided perimeter security at the memorial service. Color guard units and pipe & drum bands from CBP's Border Patrol, Air and Marine and Field Operations also performed at the event.
"Participating in this service has been one of the highest honors of my career," said Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Demetrio Guerra who is also the acting commander for the El Paso Sector Honor Guard. "Not only because we lost two of our Border Patrol agents last year, but also this is a unique event where all law enforcement officers come together. You can feel the camaraderie among all of the different officers and agents. We are one big family, and we're here to help each other and console each other in times like these."
After the President's departure, the names of the fallen officers were read. Surviving family members placed red flowers in a memorial wreath at the base of the U.S. Capitol. Blue ribbons were held high in remembrance by all in attendance. The slain officers were also honored with a 21-gun salute. Following the service, a wreath laying ceremony was held at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, the nation's monument to law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty, located at Judiciary Square in Washington, D.C.
In October 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed a proclamation designating May 15 as National Peace Officers' Memorial Day. Since the signing of this proclamation, this date has been the official date of recognition for law enforcement officers who have lost their lives in the performance of their duty. This is the 29th year that the Fraternal Order of Police and its Auxiliary have held the National Peace Officers' Memorial Service.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the management, control and protection of our nation's borders at and between the official ports of entry. CBP is charged with keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country while enforcing hundreds of U.S. laws.