The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial located in Washington, D.C., is our nation’s monument to law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty. This week, National Police Week, that monument takes on special significance for those of us in the High Country and throughout the nation.

In 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed a proclamation designating May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day. The week that that day falls in is denoted as National Police Week, and typically, tens of thousands of attendees — survivors and law enforcement officers from myriad departments throughout the United States — would be drawn to Senate Park for a series of events, and to meet and bond with one another. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, those events have been canceled this year, to be replaced with a virtual candlelight vigil (nleomf.org).

Not so far removed from the High Country, many of those candles will be lit for local officers who died in the line of duty, and whose names are recalled through the NLEOM. Among those, from Avery County we remember William Burleson, James Hardy Coffey, Max Daniels and Glenn Harold Hicks; and from Watauga County we remember Hill Hagaman, John William Knapp Jr., Richard Edward Ashley Sr., Robert Stephen Kennedy, Anthony Scott Futrell and William Ronald Mast Jr. — names among the thousands whose names are listed there (visit https://nleomf.org/memorial for a listing of names that is continuously updated, memorial panel designation and to view those on the memorial).

Sadly, it is the nature of law enforcement that more names will be added to the list of those memorialized today. And because every law enforcement officer knows that this is always a possibility as they go about their daily duties, we take today to salute, and thank, all the heroes who serve and protect our communities.

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Tom Mayer is the executive editor of Mountain Times Publications, a group of five news newspapers, six websites and one monthly periodical in the High Country of North Carolina.

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