By Congressman Pete Gallego —
Washington, D.C., is a city of memorials – impressive testaments to the men and women who have sacrificed for and shaped our country. Most of these monuments are complete. The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial is unique – it is the only memorial in Washington, D.C. that will never be finished.
Unlike memorials created to honor other brave Americans who lost their lives serving their country, new names of fallen officers killed in the line of duty are added to the Law Enforcement Officers Memorial each year. During National Police Week, the colleagues, friends and families of these fallen officers visit the memorial to pay their respect to those who have fallen in the line of duty.
When it was dedicated in 1991, the names of more than 12,000 fallen officers were engraved on the walls of the memorial. Today, the names of nearly 20,000 are inscribed. During this yearâ€™s ceremony, the names of 143 fallen officers were added.
A fellow West Texan, Deputy Sheriff Josh Mitchell from Reagan County, was on that list. Deputy Mitchell was shot and killed on August 1, 2012, in Big Lake, Texas, while answering a call. He was 25 years old. He is survived by his wife Jill, his parents, and his siblings. An entire community, indeed, an entire region, continues to mourn his loss.
Deputy Mitchellâ€™s spouse, Jill, his mother, Cindy, his sister, Bethany, and his parents-in-law, Jimmy and Linda, traveled to Washington for the memorial service. They were escorted by Reagan County Sheriff Jeff Garner and several officers from the Reagan County law enforcement community.
I was humbled to have the opportunity to meet Deputy Mitchellâ€™s family and his friends. However, no there are no words that can ease their pain.
The same week, thousands gathered yet again with heavy hearts to pay tribute to the men and women of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) who died in the line of duty. In 2012, the CBP and our country lost five border patrol agents. Three of these agents lived in the 23rd Congressional District.
Agent Leopoldo Cavazos, Jr. was a six-year veteran of the Border Patrol assigned to Fort Hancock. He died during patrol operations on July 6, 2012, from injuries sustained in an all-terrain vehicle accident. He was 29 years old. He left behind a wife and two children.
Agent James R. Dominguez of Uvalde was the third member of his family to serve in the U.S. Border Patrol. He lost his life on July 19, 2012 while assisting a stranded motorist. Still young at the age of 41, he is survived by his wife and four kids.
Agent David R. Delaney, assigned to the Big Bend sector, collapsed and died while patrolling on foot near Big Bend National Park on November 2, 2012. He too, was relatively young, only 44 years old.
At his death he left behind a wife, two daughters, and a son.
Each day, every one of us sleeps peacefully knowing that if help is ever needed, help is but a phone call away. Dial 911. Within minutes, someone is there to help. The men and women who respond to these calls put their lives on the line each and every day. Some make the ultimate sacrifice.
And, for their colleagues who mourn their loss – they too have a tough duty. Even in the face of adversity and loss, the men and women in law enforcement can never let their guard down. Their mission never stops. The danger never ends.
It may be too much to hope for that the Law Enforcement Memorial will someday be complete – no more names added. That day is still far off. In the meantime, every single day, letâ€™s thank the men and women in law enforcement who put their lives on the line to keep us safe.
And, letâ€™s keep the families of those lost consistently in our prayers. May our actions pay final tribute to theirs.