By MICHELLE ZENAROSA
WASHINGTON (Oct. 16, 2008)—Four Maryland law enforcement officers were memorialized in an annual Wreath-laying Ceremony at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Wednesday.
A total of 17 officers from federal and state law enforcement agencies in the region, including Maryland and Virginia, who were killed in the line of duty were honored at the event.
"To me, the importance is memory," said Perry M. Hunter, grandfather of Maryland Transportation Authority's Cpl. Courtney G. Brooks, 40, who was killed by a hit-and-run driver on New Year's Eve 2007. "Keeping memories alive and not forgetting anything because so often when people die and they're put in the grave, a lot of them are really forgotten but my grandson will never be forgotten."
Approximately 300 friends, family and law enforcement officers attended the service, which included the honoring of Brooks, Maryland State Police Trooper First Class Mickey C. Lippy, Prince George's County Police Sgt. Richard S. Findley and Smithsburg Police Officer Christopher Shane Nicholson.
Survivors of the slain officers were invited to place roses in front of the commemorative wreath. Some wept openly during the speakers' tributes while some silently looked on.
"Being an officer makes it important to show our support," said Hyattsville Police Cpl. Christine Feket. "This is a big family and everyone cares. It's something we take a lot of respect for."
Feket came in support of the friends and family of Findley, who was struck and killed while trying to stop a stolen vehicle in June. Some of his survivors said they were still unable to speak to a reporter about Findley's death.
Also present were friends and relatives of Lippy, who was killed in a helicopter crash last month while performing a medical evaluation of two critically injured teenagers from Charles County.
Nicholson was shot and killed in December while trying to resolve a domestic dispute in Smithsburg.
Last year, approximately 50,000 law officers were assaulted, resulting in 17,000 injuries and 181 deaths. The numbers are the highest in two decades, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
The memorial was first established in 1991 by President George H.W. Bush as a remembrance for officers in the national capital region killed while performing their duties. It has recorded the names of all officers who have died in the line of duty, including the name of the first recorded death of an officer in May 1792.
"Unlike most memorials in our nation, this memorial will never be complete," said Jennifer Thacker, national president of Concerns of Police Survivors, surviving spouse of Investigator Brandon H. Thacker of the Kentucky Department of Alcohol Beverage Control and speaker at the tribute. "There are 140 to 160 law enforcement officers who are killed each year and each year their names must be added to this memorial. While pain does not end by adding their names, their ultimate sacrifice will not be forgotten."
The names of the officers who died this year will be engraved on the memorial next spring and they will be officially dedicated during the 21st Annual Candlelight Vigil in May 2009.
The expression 'to protect and to serve' "does not mean that law officers should give his or her life to the cause, but that is understood," said United States Attorney General Michael Mukasey, who spoke at the commemoration. "They give us all the luxury of being safe and at peace. Those of us who benefit must keep them sharply in our minds and ensure the memory of their service and sacrifice does not fade over time."
Capital News Service contributed to this report.