Today, just a few days after Veterans Day, the wreaths are down, the parades are over and most of us have turned back to our work and families. But we are undoubtedly better for this day, as individuals and as a nation. Every year, this day reminds me to pause, reflect and honor our veterans and others who have given their lives so that we can live ours – in freedom, in safety and in peace. I just had a chance to view a powerful – and wonderful – video that honors the fallen officers of the Illinois State Police as well as their families. If you have a few moments, stop what you are doing and check it out.
Fallen Officers – and the Importance of Remembering
In Illinois, we are attempting to build a memorial to fallen state troopers, a group of men and women who serve us every day, in every aspect of law enforcement. Most citizens don’t understand what a terribly dangerous job it is. In addition to facing the dangers of traditional policing – getting shot or stabbed, or injured while trying to control a deranged or drugged subject for the protection of others – troopers also keep our highways safe, and because of this lose their lives or become seriously injured far too often.
Honoring the Officers
On several different levels – as a friend, retired Trooper, Illinois citizen, and an American – I am deeply grateful for the sacrifices of so many I knew. As Troopers, we were greatly affected when one of our own was killed and witnessed the tremendous loss and pain their families felt. While we all felt pain, it paled in comparison to theirs. I first saw this early in my career when John Kuggelman, my friend and academy classmate was killed a few years into his career by a fleeing felon, a tragedy that brought the reality of policing personally home to many of us in the ISP. There are 65 names of fallen Illinois State Police Officers to remember and honor whose families suffered a tragic, life-altering event. I knew 12 of these fallen Troopers and worked side by side with five of them; they were my colleagues and my friends. This video and blog are not just about honoring them and memorializing their courage – but also, and even more importantly, honoring their families and their loss.
Continuing Their Legacy
I believe in my heart that – in addition to the freedom, safety and peace these officers protected with their lives – they help us learn about ourselves. I believe that their courage – and their willingness to take on difficult, dangerous lives that cost them everything – help the rest of us realize that people, all of us, are inherently good and capable of truly amazing acts of courage and selflessness. Sadly, there is no memorial to these officers in Illinois – but with the help of many generous people, there can be. For additional information go to ISP Heritage Foundation Memorial Park. If you are interested in donating, you can do so at the ISPHF Memorial Park Donation Page.