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Military, civilian police honor their fallen

Northwest Guardian

Published: 04:03PM May 15th, 2014

Although they work in different environments, military and civilian police officers mourn comrades lost in the line of duty the same way.

Law enforcement officers of the 42nd MP Brigade, Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Pierce County came together May 7 to honor fallen officers at Clover Park Technical College in Lakewood.

The annual Pierce County Law Enforcement Memorial ceremony during National Police Week honors the sacrifices of all MPs killed since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and all civilian law enforcement officers who’ve died while serving since the 1890s.

During the ceremony, keynote speaker state Sen. Bruce Dammeier, R-Puyallup, told the law enforcement personnel in the audience how grateful he and the citizens of Washington were for their protection.

“No place is exempt from evil in our society,” Dammeier said. “It’s a comfort to citizens that you’re there to keep us safe.”

Bagpipe honors and reading the rolls of the fallen followed the speeches, bringing many to tears. Although the evening was melancholy, everyone was grateful that no new names were added this year. Fifty-nine names were called, 29 of them MPs.

“We have lost far too many, sacrificed far too many,” Dammeier said.

Pierce County began the annual observance, and 15 years ago county officials invited military police personnel to join them.

“Fifteen years ago, I posed the question, ‘could we honor fallen military the same as fallen officers?’” said Charles Thorton, joint operations officer with the Directorate of Emergency Services on JBLM. “Now we’re able to honor every killed service member the same, whether military or civilian.”

The 42nd Military Police Brigade commander, Col. David Chase, observed the parallel missions of civilian and military law enforcement personnel.

“Law enforcement officers are doing their mission outside and us on base,” Chase said. “This shows solidarity and respect.”

Guest speaker Gloria Hancock, widow of Terry Hoffer, thanked the officers as well as the first responders who came to her husband’s aid when he was shot in the line of duty 30 years ago during a routine license check.

“It’s been a comfort to me that when called on the radio everyone came to help,” she said.

To keep the names of their fallen in the minds of the public all year long, the 42nd MP Bde. collected donations and unveiled a memorial last year at JBLM’s Memorial Park.

There are three benches placed in front of three tall, rectangular stone slabs, surrounded by colorful shrubs. The names of the dead are engraved upon the stones.

“It’s great we were able to get this memorial made, they need to be honored,” Chase said. “We encourage Soldiers to visit the site and reflect on their sacrifice.”