Justice News

Attorney General Eric Holder at the National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service
Washington, DC
United States
~
Friday, May 15, 2009

Remarks as prepared for delivery.

Thank you very much, Chuck, for that kind introduction, and most importantly, for the remarkable work you do on behalf of our nation’s police officers.

I could not be more honored to be here today, to join this remarkable gathering of America’s finest.

Throughout this week I have attended events to honor the men and women of our law enforcement community – to honor the memories of those we have lost and to express the debt of gratitude that we owe to all those for whom the work continues.

I have been reminded, over the course of these events, that while our nation’s law enforcement community consists of many different departments and agencies across all levels of government -- federal, state, local and tribal -- we are all one family, all one team dedicated to the singular goal of making our streets safer and our country more secure.

It is right, therefore, that we take time every year to pause and remember the brave men and women in blue who work tirelessly to serve our communities and protect the bedrock freedoms that make our nation great.

It is right to pause and recognize their amazing acts of heroism, their bravery in the line of fire, their selfless service amidst diminishing resources and ever increasing demands.

But most of all, it is right to stop and pay solemn tribute to those fallen heroes who have given their lives, who have given that last measure of devotion in service to a grateful nation.

As the motto of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund says, “heroes live forever.”

These heroes will live on as names etched on the walls of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, names inscribed on the pages of our Books of Honor, and names read aloud at candlelight vigils held during National Police Week.

They will live on in the stories of courage and sacrifice told and re-told by their grateful fellow officers, some of whom live today only because a friend laid down his life in the line of duty.

These heroes will live on in the homes and neighborhoods of millions of law abiding citizens across this country, whose streets are safer and whose freedoms more secure because of the sacrifice of these fallen officers.

And most of all, they will live on in the hearts of their surviving loved ones – in the parents who never thought they would have to bury their child, in the spouses who are forced to pick up the pieces, in the children who are forced to bear a sadness that no child should ever have to bear.

Every day, you remember their smiles, the twinkle in their eyes, the sound of their laughter, the joy they brought to all of those whose lives they touched. And you miss them so, so much.

These heroes live on in all of us.

So to all of you -- families, friends, colleagues, and loved ones of these fallen heroes -- we know that you are asked to carry a heavy weight upon your shoulders. And though no week of speeches, wreath-laying, or solemn tributes can ever relieve that burden, please remember that today – indeed, every day -- you do not bear it alone. Your sacrifice is in our hearts, and we are there for you.

These memorial events are solemn, to be sure, and rightly so. But they are also a time to rejoice – to rejoice in the bright light of the lives we honor today and in the unfailing valor of those who carry their work forward.

I am so grateful to be joined today by thousands of dedicated police officers who serve on the front lines in every corner of our country. Every morning, you put on your uniforms and head to work knowing that you may be called upon to put your own lives on the line. You make the choice to do so willingly – indeed, you embrace it. You serve for a purpose far greater than yourselves, and for that you deserve our undying gratitude.

For me, this is personal. Some of you may know that my brother, William, is a retired Port Authority police officer. So I will hear about it loud and clear if we in the federal government don’t live up to our solemn commitment to do all we can do to ensure your safety.

But there is another side to my message. To all those out there who would do harm to police officers, you need to hear me loud and clear: We are not going to stand by and wait for you to come to us. We are coming to get you. You will be arrested, you will be prosecuted, and you will be sentenced to the full extent of the law. The protection of police officers is a personal priority for this Attorney General.

With this event, Police Week begins to draw to a close. But I suggest that each of us has the opportunity – indeed, the obligation -- to spread the heroism we honor today back to our own communities every day. We must have zero tolerance for crimes, both large and small. We must help our neighbors in times of need. And we must teach our children the unsung duties of fair play and responsible citizenship.

Let us bind ourselves together in a new bond of service -- to make our country brighter, safer, and more hopeful -- and in so doing, let us bear true witness to the legacies of our fallen heroes.

I have been reminded this week of a Biblical passage that I know rings true with all of you: “Greater love has no one than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Let us remember these words, today and always, and in deepest gratitude, let us be secure in the knowledge that our dear friends rest in peace and in a place of honor. Their life’s work is our inheritance. Let us hold it dearly.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.