Remarks by the President at the National Peace Officers Memorial Service
11:20 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you, everybody. Please have a seat. Thank you, Chuck, for that introduction and more importantly for your leadership as National President of the Fraternal Order of Police. I want to recognize the entire Order and all its leaders, including Jim Pasco, for everything that you do on behalf of the fine officers who walk the beat, or answer the call, and do the difficult work of keeping our communities safe all across the country.
I want to also acknowledge FOP Auxiliary President Linda Hennie for the good work that she and all her members do to support the families of police officers. We are very grateful to you, to Speaker Boehner, Leader Pelosi, members of Congress, members of my administration who are here, to all the law enforcement officials who are and, most of all, to the survivor families.
Scripture tells us, “None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself.” The brave officers we gather to remember today devoted themselves so fully to others -- to serve and to protect others -- that in the process they were willing to give their lives.
And so, today, let us not remember them just for how they died, but also for how they lived.
Officer Bruce St. Laurent of the Jupiter, Florida Police Department was, according to a friend, “just what a cop should be: tough, compassionate, caring, and brave.” But to his community, he was more than a cop. He was a cancer survivor. He was a guest teacher at Jupiter High School who used the laws of traffic to help kids learn physics. He was an amateur snake charmer of sorts, eagerly taking panicked calls about snakes on the loose. And at Christmas time, he loved being Santa Claus for the kids in the local Head Start program.
I have the privilege of working with some of the nation’s finest law enforcement officers and professionals every day. And I’m perpetually mindful of the sacrifices they make for me and for my family, and for other leaders and visiting dignitaries, but never more so than when I was told that Officer St. Laurent was struck and killed by another vehicle while driving his motorcycle as part of my motorcade.
Bruce was a loving husband to Brenda, a doting father to Larry, and Albert, and Lenny, and Chartelle. And he will be missed so deeply by his family at home and by his family in the force. And the police officers who came from all over the country to attend Bruce’s funeral, some bringing their motorcycles as far away as California, they’re a testimony to how much he’ll be missed.
Like Bruce, Deputy Sheriff Barbara Ann Pill of Brevard County Sheriff’s Office in Florida was a force for good in her community -- remembered as a “behind-the-scenes hero” by those who knew her. Because for Barbara, helping others was never a question. Before joining the force, she counseled abused children and helped families struggling with domestic abuse. That passion served her and led her to a career in law enforcement, and inspired her two sons to follow. So when Barbara was shot while investigating a suspicious vehicle last spring, not only did her husband, Steve, lose his partner of more than 30 years, the town of Melbourne, and the nation itself, lost one of its most dedicated citizens.
All of you in law enforcement, you devote your lives to serving and protecting your communities. Many of you have done it for your country as well. After serving two tours in Iraq as a Marine, Bradley Michael Fox retired with honor and followed his dream to becoming a police officer. He had been with the Plymouth Township Police Department in Pennsylvania for five years when he was shot and killed pursuing a suspect last September. It was the day before his 35th birthday, and six months before the birth of his son.
Nothing will replace the enthusiasm that he brought to his job, or the tremendous pride he had in his family. But today, Brad’s wife, Lynsay, and daughter, Kadence, and baby, Brad Jr., have a living reminder of their fallen hero -- that's Brad’s K9 partner, a trusty shepherd named Nick, who Lynsay adopted into the family when he retired from the force last fall.
Deputy Sheriff Scott Ward also defined service. He was a former officer in the Air Force, a deputy in the Baldwin County, Alabama, Sheriff’s Office for 15 years, and finished a tour in Afghanistan last year as a reservist in the Coast Guard.
Last November, Deputy Sheriff Ward was shot and killed in the line of duty while trying to settle a domestic dispute. And he died as he lived -- serving his community and his country. And the fact that his funeral procession stretched for miles demonstrated the thanks of a grateful nation to Scott’s wife, Andrea, and his family.
At Scott’s funeral, Baldwin Country Sheriff Huey Mack said, “Tomorrow we will continue to grieve Scott, but we will have to move on. That’s what Scott would want us to do because our mission does not stop.”
That message I think rings true in every police department across the country. As difficult as times may be, as tough as the losses may be, your mission does not stop. You never let down your guard. And those of us who you protect should never let slide our gratitude either. We should not pause and remember to thank first responders and police officers only in the wake of tragedy. We should do it every day. And those of us who have the privilege to lead should all strive to support you better -- whether it’s making sure police departments and first responders have the resources they need to do their jobs, or the reforms that are required to protect more of our officers and their families from the senseless epidemics of violence that all too often wrack our cities and haunt our neighborhoods.
And Bobby Kennedy once said that the fight against crime “is a fight to preserve that quality of community which is at the root of our greatness.”
The 143 fallen officers we honor today put themselves on the front lines of that fight, to preserve that quality of community, and to protect the roots of our greatness. They exemplified the very idea of citizenship -- that with our God-given rights come responsibilities and obligations to ourselves and to others. They embodied that idea. That’s the way they died. That’s how we must remember them. And that’s how we must live.
We can never repay our debt to these officers and their families, but we must do what we can, with all that we have, to live our lives in a way that pays tribute to their memory. That begins, but does not end, by gathering here -- with heavy hearts, to carve their names in stone, so that all will know them, and that their legacy will endure. We are grateful to them and we are grateful to you.
May God bless the memory of those we lost, and may God continue to bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
11:29 A.M. EDT