Memorial Day is a solemn day of remembrance to honor the brave souls who lost their lives while defending our nation.
In the past decade, these days have been even more emotional because of the number of American warriors losing their lives in active combat zones around the world.
According to a February 2012 U.S. Defense Department tally, 4,474 United States servicemen and women were killed in Iraq in operations related to the U.S military invasion and post-war involvement in that country's security operations. iCasualties.org reports 4,804 total U.S. Military deaths in Iraq.
According to an April 2012 DOD report, 1,801 U.S. military personnel died in the Afghanistan war with another 110 having died in the broader Operation Enduring Freedom operations that took place around the region. iCasualties.org reports 1,982 U.S. fatalities in total.
Nearly 7,000 of our finest, bravest and most courageous citizens lost their lives defending our nation in just the last decade.
Sadly, the reporting on U.S. Military Veterans who die each year is poor; nonetheless, our nation continues to lose its greatest citizens one-by-one with the WWI generation gone and the WWII greatest generation quickly depleting.
Veterans of the Korean and Vietnam War are also leaving us by the hundreds and thousands each year.
So many great warriors, all driven by great internal fortitude and selfless heroism in looking out for each other, are leaving our lives each year. We need to use this Memorial Day to pause and remember their sacrifice and recommit ourselves to the ideals of a nation they died for. It is in being better Americans that we can best honor the memory of the fallen who gave their lives so that we could have ours. Let's all make sure we make our lives worthy of their sacrifice.
However, Memorial Day is not exclusive to our national military. Each city, town, village, county and state in American is protected by a police force that also put their lives in danger to protect the freedoms and safety of private citizens.
Last weekend brought our attention back to a reality that has been true for a long time. The people of Chicago are privileged to be protected and served by the finest group of men and women in the world: the officers of the Chicago Police Department.
We really do take the CPD for granted. And yes, the institution and the leadership is not always praiseworthy. Sometimes they allow bad cops to get away with criminal conduct. Some officers take negative liberties with their badges. A few are outright corrupt.
But the overwhelming majority patrol our communities with a sense of purpose. They are the front line in the never-ending struggle to protect citizens from those who wish to harm society.
We saw out-of-town protesters throwing their urine at police last week while a couple of them decided to attack cops with sticks and knives. A few officers were hurt in the scuffles.
Yet, we don't see the work those same officers do in the neighborhoods of Chicago every day.
We don't see them executing search warrants on drug houses where a man on the other side could be packing a high caliber assault rifle.
We don't see heroine-addicted violent offenders whose rage can become uncontrollable and require 6 officers to make an arrest.
Most of all, we are never mindful enough of those officers whose service to Chicago was cut short.
Sure, we think about them when they make the news the day of the tragedy but what about all the days after?
The Chicago Police Memorial Foundation also keeps a detailed list of Fallen Heroes who lost their lives in the line of duty. I encourage everyone to spend a little time on that page this weekend in appreciation of those officers who died serving and protecting our great city. http://www.cpdmemorial.org/fallen_heroes
There have been more than 550 Chicago Police Officers who have sacrificed their lives for our City. Let's not forget those peace officers in our memorial prayers this weekend.
Thus far, 4 names have been added to the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation Wall in 2012.
- P.O. Clifton P. Lewis - 015th District, EOW 29 Dec 2011
- P.O. Frank M. Bastone (historical) - 001st District, EOW 15 April 1975
- P.O. Frank Williams (historical) - 35th Street Station, EOW 27 March 1891
- P.O. Zollie Reiger (historical) - 024th District, EOW 13 Jan 1958
A donation to the Memorial Foundation would be a nice a way for those not in the fraternity of police families to show their support.
We were all proud of our men in blue over NATO weekend. Their discipline, professionalism, toughness, and intelligence showed the very best of what makes Chicago a great international city. Every Chicagoan walked a little taller and stood up a little straighter after watching our cops at work. It takes more than one event to solidify the often frayed relationship between police and the community, but this event went a long way in establishing the lasting trust and respect a police force must gain to be effective in defending a population.
This generation of Chicago cops is building a legacy that will be remembered into the future; but, this weekend is about remembering the legacy of those who went before.
As we gather with family and friends, let us take time to remember those who make our peaceful holidays possible.