Over 50 years ago, President John F. Kennedy signed a proclamation that designated May 15th as “Peace Officers Memorial Day”. Congress established that the week that date falls on is Police Week, a time of special recognition to law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty for the safety of others.
In the beginning, this holiday was celebrated by a gathering of 120 or so law enforcement and supporters in Senate Park. Now, tens of thousands of law enforcement officers and supporters worldwide gather together in Washington D.C. to participate in a variety of annual events to honor those who have paid the ultimate price. While many of these events for 2020 have been canceled or postponed due to COVID-19, it is still important to recognize their importance and impact:
Law Ride and Wreath Laying Ceremony
Since 1995, the Law Ride and Wreath Laying Ceremony kicked off National Police Week. The first Law Ride was organized by Gary Lyons, a Falls Church Police officer and motorcycle enthusiast. During the first few years, roughly 20-50 riders would attend. Now, the procession often exceeds 1,500 first responders and riders who want to show their support and honor law enforcement. Riders meet at Robert F. Kennedy stadium and drive to the Memorial Site, where the wreath laying ceremony and special presentations occur.
Annual Police K-9 Memorial Service
This year marks the 3rd Annual Police K-9 Memorial Service, which is hosted by the National Police Dog Foundation, Courageous Tails, FOP DC Lodge #1 and United for Blue. In the past, attendees participated in a memorial service, which included a wreath laying ceremony to honor fallen police K-9s from the past year. People can still honor these K-9 heroes and keep K-9 units strong by donating online. Donations are used to replace and train K-9s or in the Annual Police K-9 Memorial Service.
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial and Museum (NLEOM) honors the brave men and women who have fallen throughout the past year with a candlelight vigil. The vigil is a commitment that the fallen will never be forgotten and will receive the honor they deserve.
While the current pandemic prevents law enforcement and supports from physically meeting together in Washington D.C. for the vigil, people can still participate by lighting a virtual candle. On Wednesday, May 13th, the NLEOM will host the 32nd Annual Candlelight Vigil virtually for viewers worldwide.
C.O.P.S. Kids/Teens Program
Throughout Police Week, children and siblings who lost family members to a line-of-duty death can participate in specially-organized activities. In previous years, children were able to interact with those their age who have gone through a similar tragedy, participate in fun social activities and attend optional grief counseling sessions.
Annual National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service
The Annual National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service is an opportunity for the public to gather together on the U.S. Capitol grounds. Here, speeches are given by the President and other officials while the crowds listen in and draw strength together.
VirTra honors all the local, state and federal peace officers who made the ultimate sacrifice to keep us all safe from harm. To all active and retired first responders, we say: thank you.