Honoring Our Past While Looking Toward the Future

I will always remember Vivian Eney, among many, who illustrated the importance of building the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. She impressed upon me just how much mere notes or other expressions of condolence mean to the loved ones of officers who make the ultimate sacrifice. I realized then how meaningful a lasting tribute—a national monument with their loved one’s name inscribed—would be to a survivor.
On October 15, 1991, we dedicated the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, DC, with nearly 12,600 names of fallen heroes engraved on the marble walls. Among those names was Vivian’s late husband, Christopher Eney, a sergeant with the United States Capitol Police, who was killed in a training accident in August 1984. 

Vivian was among a handful of leaders who helped turn the dream of this national monument into a reality. She was the deciding voice in favor of the lion statues, beautifully sculpted by Ray Kaskey, that adorn the entrances of the Memorial. And, of course, it is her poignant quote on the Memorial walls that has explained to millions of visitors the essence of this monument: “It is not how these officers died that made them heroes, it is how they lived.”

Amongst many thousands of families whose loved one’s name is engraved on the Memorial walls, Vivian, and her family, remain vital to our mission more than 30 years after her husband’s death. “When a grave doesn’t look new anymore, when the grass has grown over it, this will be the place to come and see the names—to touch the names,” Vivian shared at a special wreathlaying in commemoration of Christopher’s death in 2009. 

The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund has held countless ceremonies and events that raise the public awareness of law enforcement in our country—especially those who have fallen in the line of duty. From Candlelight Vigils to intimate wreathlayings to 5K run and walk events, the Memorial is open and accessible to all every day of the year. As Vivian so eloquently shared, it is a place where survivors, colleagues, and friends can visit and remember their officer. When they visit, they feel uplifted knowing that their officer is honored next to thousands more who made the same sacrifice. Most of all, visitors share that they are comforted knowing they’re loved one is forever honored.

Yet, as we celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, our work to fulfill our mission does not end there. In fact, that’s only the start. We also aspire to protect the officers who put on the uniform every day by promoting safety and wellness. We partner with the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance and Community Oriented Policing Services divisions, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and others to raise awareness of the everyday dangers in an officer’s life, while providing information and resources designed to improve their safety as they conduct their work to keep the citizens in our communities safe. We issue Law Enforcement Fatalities Reports to identify trends and key indicators of specific areas where the law enforcement community can focus to improve officer safety. And we notify subscribers to our Recently Fallen Alerts when we learn of officer fatalities across the country.

And, now, construction is well underway on the National Law Enforcement Museum that will finally and fully tell the story of American law enforcement. Museum will open in 2018, and when it does, millions of visitors will learn what it’s like to be a law enforcement officer. The Museum will tell the story of American law enforcement through high-tech interactive exhibits, a comprehensive collection of artifacts, extensive resources for research, and diverse educational programming. And the Museum’s public programming will help bridge the gap between law enforcement and the communities they serve by giving visitors a better understanding of a day in the life of an officer.

High-tech exhibits in the Museum will educate and entertain— underscoring the necessity for citizens to step forward and do their part to uphold the rule of law and preserve the constitutional rights of the citizens of our country.

The Memorial serves as a powerful reminder that duty runs deep and that the service and sacrifice peace officers, and their families, have made for the safety and protection of our citizenry is important. As we bring forth the National Law Enforcement Museum, the Memorial will forever remain a focal point of the “campus for law enforcement” seated in Washington, DC’s Judiciary Square.

As we commemorate the Memorial’s 25th anniversary this month, we remember the now 20,789 names engraved on the sacred walls. Each one was a hero who sacrificed their life for our safety. We will continue to honor them and their families. And the Museum will inspire future generations of peace officers who will take up the mantle of law enforcement.

Help us continue the mission of telling the story of American Law Enforcement. Your donation will help us maintain the Memorial walls and finish construction on the Museum. Support the Memorial in the spirit of #GivingTuesday: www.LawMemorial.org/GivingTuesday

– Craig W. Floyd, President
and CEO of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund