Today’s blog is written by author John Cagle. Cagle is the former Chief Deputy of the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office and was a Special Agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. He is a member of the Peace Officers Association of Georgia.
On October 1, 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed a bill into law designating May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day, and Police Week is the calendar week in which the memorial falls. This observance pays tribute to local, state, and federal peace officers who have been killed or disabled in the line of duty. In 1994, President Bill Clinton directed that the flag of the United States be flown at half-staff on May 15.
Most states have constructed memorials to fallen officers. In Georgia, the Public Safety Memorial Wall is located at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Forsyth, where the names of officers who gave the ultimate sacrifice are etched into marble. Unfortunately, more names are added each year.
Let’s reflect for a moment who these people are and where they came from. Most peace officers will tell you that in the beginning it was just a job but then it became a lifestyle. The desire to serve the citizens of their communities and keep them safe became their focus. Each minute of every hour of every day, peace officers are out there doing their duty. Responding to issues involving criminal activity, looking for lost children, or helping a senior citizen change a tire on a rainy night becomes their routine. They’re the ones who coach on weekends at the rec department and teach Sunday school at the local church. You will see them in restaurants with their families and in the doctor’s office with a sick child. They don’t complain in the middle of the night when the phone rings and duty calls. They work weekends, holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries. Most officers struggle to make ends meet on their low salary and often times work off-duty security jobs to support their families. Every name etched on the marble monument in Forsyth represents a brave and decent person who was not afraid to look out for the needs of others.
As I look at this monument, I reflect on the names I recognize and had the pleasure of working with and knowing.
I encourage you to locate and visit the memorials for fallen officers in your state. But just as importantly, I encourage you to take the time to thank the officers who continue their efforts to keep you and your communities safe.