For almost 30 years I carried a gun, most of the time two. Being a Chicago Police Officer was the best education in the world. You worked in a living social science laboratory. I joke that my undergraduate and post graduate degrees were from the University of the Westside.
We were the men in blue, the original Blue Man Group. Our uniforms were blue, our blood was blue, and for 8 hours a day, no matter your skin color, we were all blue.
The job came with sacrifices. We worked all hours of the day, holidays, and days when there were family events. Some families kept a picture on the wall so when mom or dad came home the children would recognize them and not get scared.
Some police officers sacrificed the most. Their lives were taken from them or they suffered catastrophic injuries. On the first Sunday in May they are remembered with the Saint Jude's Memorial Parade. The parade used to start at the Chicago River on Michigan Avenue and end at Holy Name Cathedral. A few years ago it was relocated to the lake front and now ends at the Chicago Police Gold Star Families Memorial Park.
Next week is National Police Week. May 15th is National Police Day. In 1962 President John F. Kennedy signed a proclamation dedicating the week and day to the nation's Peace Officers.
"It is not how these men died that makes them heroes. It is how they lived."
Chicago is home to the premier police memorial in the nation, the beautifully landscaped and designed Chicago Police Gold Star Families Memorial Park. It sits on 5 acres of land in Burnham Park between McFetridge and Waldron Drives( 1400-1800 South). It is east of Soldiers Field, with Lake Michigan on one side and the backdrop of the city on the other.
The memorial park was spearheaded by then Superintendent of Police Phil Cline and commissioned by the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation. The 3.5 million dollars to create the park came from donations. Police Officers, retirees, citizens, and corporate citizens. The park was dedicated in 2006.
There is a curvilinear wall with numbered panels. The panels are carved with the names of over 560 Chicago Police Officers whose lives were taken from them.
The area contains many trees and is lushly landscaped. Still, on the sunniest day it is a somber place. The names go as far back as the 1830s.
In 2010 a bronze statue and separate area was commissioned to honor those who suffered catastrophic injuries while in the performance of their duties.
The Chicago Police Memorial Foundation was not only established to create a monument. Their mission is to assist the families of slain and catastrophically injured police officers in many different ways. They raise money through online donations, events, traditional fund raising, and corporate sponsorships.
For the past several the Chicago Police Chaplain has celebrated Father's Day Mass at the memorial.
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