Remembering Law Enforcement ‘Heroes’ at US Capitol Ceremony
Law enforcement officers from across the globe, along with agents and officers from Customs and Border Protection, gathered May 15 for the 34th Annual National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service on the west front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.
The moving ceremony, featuring remarks by President Barack Obama, honored law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty during 2014, including two fallen U.S. Border Patrol agents: Alexander I. Giannini of the Willcox Border Patrol Station in Arizona and Agent Tyler R. Robledo of the Carrizo Springs Border Patrol Station in Texas.
President Barack Obama told the audience that the nation mourns with the families, many of which attended the ceremony, escorted in a long procession to their seats.
“To all the families here today, whose loved one did not come home at the end of a shift, please know how deeply sorry we are for the loss that you’ve endured,” President Obama said. “Know how deeply grateful we are for your loved one’s sacrifice. We hold them up as heroes because that’s what they are. It takes a special kind of courage to be a peace officer. To be the one people turn to in their most desperate moments. To be willing to run into a dangerous situation, when everybody else is running the other way. Today, we honor 131 who made that ultimate sacrifice.
“We are here to honor heroes who lost their lives in the line of duty – men and women who put themselves in the way of danger, so that the rest of us could live in safety,” President Obama said. “They were beat cops, deputies, detectives, correctional and forest service officers, federal agents and tribal police. But to many here today, they went by different titles: caring husband, loving wife, my son, my daughter, mom, dad.”
Mark Thowson, air interdiction agent at the Tucson Air Branch in Arizona and member of the CBP Pipes and Drums, said it’s important to represent CBP and the Office of Air and Marine and to support the surviving family members. “It feels good to play for families,” said Thowson. “They acknowledge you, and say, ‘wow that was really great, that sounded beautiful.’ That means a lot to us, especially the three component bands. When families comment on that, that’s a big deal.”
Another CBP Honor Guard member, Border Patrol Agent Carlos Pitones from El Centro Sector in California, agreed on the value of paying tribute to the fallen and their families. “We want to let them know that we still care and we will always remember their loved ones,” he said.
“CBP has always played a major role in this ceremony,” Pitones added, “providing security and honoring our fallen, and it’s important as CBP Honor Guard members to continue that legacy.”
The annual memorial service, sponsored by the Grand Lodge Auxiliary of the Fraternal Order of Police, began in 1982. President John F. Kennedy signed a proclamation in 1962 that designated May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day and the surrounding days as National Police Week.
“It’s one of the ways that I can actually contribute to the legacy [of the fallen] and let [their families] know that I will always remember,” said Kirk Gomes, chief CBP officer in Dallas. “This will always be an emotional ceremony, and generations from now will look back on it and say, ‘what a way to carry on our history and our legacy as a tradition.’”
CBP Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and several members of Congress also attended the ceremony.
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.