Virginians should honor fallen heroes

Published 9:43 pm Monday, May 13, 2013

By Marla Graff Decker

I would like to take the opportunity during Law Enforcement Memorial Week to pay tribute to the men and women who protect and serve the commonwealth, risking their lives each day to keep us safe.

Since the first known line-of-duty death in America, there have been more than 19,000 officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Tragically, 487 of those fallen heroes were serving Virginia when their lives were cut short.


Email newsletter signup

Law Enforcement Memorial Week is a time to honor and remember these individuals and to show our appreciation for their commitment and dedication to public safety.

Fifteen Virginia law enforcement heroes have been killed in the line of duty since 2010. Some of these officers were the victims of violent crimes, some died as a result of tragic vehicle accidents, and others died while engaged in critical training. Regardless of the cause, each of these public servants was dedicated to making Virginia a safer place for all of us, and each left behind a family, friends, and a community thankful for their sacrifice, but heartbroken over the loss.

There were three line-of-duty deaths in 2012, and we have lost two additional heroes this year.

In 2012, Officer Chris Yung of the Prince William County Police Department was killed in a motorcycle crash while responding to the scene of an accident. Trooper Andrew Fox of the Virginia State Police was struck and killed by a vehicle while he was directing traffic at the State Fair. Deputy Sheriff Michael Walizer of the Charles City County Sheriff’s Department died in a vehicle crash as he responded to assist a fellow deputy at a traffic stop.

This year, Deputy Bill Grimsley of the Portsmouth Sheriff’s Department succumbed to injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident after a parade. The most recent line-of-duty death was Master Trooper J.A. Walker of the Virginia State Police, who was shot and killed after stopping for what he believed to be a disabled vehicle.

Along with each of these tragic and senseless deaths comes a story of heroism and sacrifice and more families, colleagues, and friends who grieve the loss of a fine public servant.

I ask that all Virginians pause a moment this week and reflect upon the sacrifices of the brave men and women who were killed in the line of duty. We must honor their memory and support their families, departments and friends.

In Virginia, more than 165,000 law enforcement officers continue to put themselves in harm’s way each day. As we remember those we have lost, it is important that we also express our gratitude to those who continue to carry out the important mission of law enforcement.

These professionals, regardless of their uniform or assignment, give of themselves 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so that we may enjoy the freedom and liberties that are the foundation of our nation. We must recognize their bravery, as well as the courage and sacrifice of their families. These officers forgo precious time with their loved ones to carry out the job they swore they would do — “protect and serve.”

Those who wear a badge and carry a gun do not have the luxury of having an “off” day. Instead, they must be vigilant and focused on their mission. They deserve our respect, admiration and thanks.

And, to the families who celebrate holidays, birthdays, weekends, and special events as their loved ones serve the community, the commonwealth is forever grateful.

To the troopers; local, state and federal law enforcement officers; deputies, correctional officers, and other sworn professionals who protect Virginia, thank you for your selfless service and the personal sacrifices you make to help ensure our “Commonwealth of Opportunity.”

To the families, departments, and friends of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice, your loved ones will always be remembered for what they have done to keep us all safe. Their memory lives on in our hearts forever and their legacy continues with those who serve.

Marla Graff Decker is Virginia’s Secretary of Public Safety.