“They laid down their lives for their communities.”
Those were the words spoken by 36th Prosecutorial District Attorney Scott Reilly as he addressed law enforcement officers and others gathered at Catawba Memorial Park to remember their fallen comrades during the Peace Officers Memorial Day recognition on May 14, 2021.
Those who attended the ceremony, sponsored by the National Fraternal Order of Police and Catawba County FOP Lodge 26, were reminded of seven law enforcement officers from Catawba County who lost their lives in the line of duty through the years and 13 across North Carolina who gave their lives in service to community in just the last two years.
Nationally, 285 law enforcement officers were killed as they carried out their duties to serve and protect in 2020.
“Today, we honor the lives of 20 persons … those who lost their lives in the line of duty,” Reilly said. “Twenty lives. That is a number that truly should give us pause to reflect. Twenty brave officers who gave their lives to protect our safety and to defend our freedoms.
“Today, we honor their courage and give our gratitude.”
Peace Officers Memorial Day is an observance in the United States that pays tribute to the local, state and federal peace officers who have died, or who have been disabled, in the line of duty. The formal memorial celebration is recognized May 15 of each year.
The holiday was created on October 1, 1961, when Congress authorized the president to designate May 15 of each year to honor peace officers. President John F. Kennedy signed the bill into law on October 1, 1962. The first Peace Officers Memorial Day was May 15, 1963, honoring those officers who lost their lives through their courageous deeds in carrying out their duties.
Reilly acknowledged that sworn law enforcement officers accept great responsibilities and great risks when they take their oaths to serve and protect, and often fall under great scrutiny when called upon to act in pressure-filled, emotionally-charged situations that require them to make split-second decisions that could mean the difference between life and death.
“Every day we ask the police to do so much,” he said, noting that many people who ask law enforcement officers to clean up their communities and rid them of crime are often those who seek to defund the police or have officers arrested when something goes wrong. “These officers deserve our respect not scorn. These brave men and women who go into law enforcement know full well that one day they may be called upon to lay down their life in the call of duty. These 20 men and women who we honor today made that choice to go into law enforcement willingly. That is why their ultimate sacrifice means so much. They served and sacrificed for a purpose far greater than themselves.
“And that, ladies and gentlemen, is my definition of the hero. By being here today we show our appreciation for these officers’ heroism, and we recognize that our public safety, our freedom and our prosperity are bought at a price.”
As he concluded his remarks, Reilly referred to the command given by Jesus Christ found in the 15th chapter from the Gospel of John when He spoke of loving one another as Jesus loves each of us found in verses 12 and 13.
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends,” Jesus said in that passage.
“The men and women we honor and remember today did stand between us and the danger. They laid down their lives for their communities,” Reilly said, “Today, as we honor these 20 brave officers, let us rededicate ourselves to their high ideals. Let us recommit ourselves to defending freedom, guarding peace and preserving justice.
“May God bless and protect all law enforcement officers across our great nation, and may God bless the men and women who have given their lives in service to our nation.”
CONTACT: Nathan Key