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It has been a rough year for police officers, in Alaska and America. Though families of officers know each day when their loved one goes to work that the officer runs more than an average risk of not coming home, when the worst happens it’s beyond comprehension to those left behind.
So it was for the families of two Alaska officers who died very recently, and for lamentably many more elsewhere in the United States.
One of the main things survivors and fellow officers seek when someone dies — especially when someone dies in service to the rest of us — is that the person be remembered, and the ultimate sacrifice be honored. They are indeed the “thin blue line” between us and those who would harm us. When there is trouble and we all start running from it, they run toward it, so it can’t harm us.
Across the nation, National Police Memorial Day is noted on May 15; in Alaska, the observance is today, May 10, in order that families of fallen officers may attend events at home and nationally.
This year, two names will be added to the list of officers who died in the line of duty in Alaska: Thomas Madole, the Manokotak Village Public Safety Officer who died by gunfire on March 19, and Alaska State Trooper Tage Toll, who died in a helicopter crash near Talkeetna March 30. Over the years, we have mourned others in Alaska and in Ketchikan, particularly City of Ketchikan Police Officer Earl Hoggard in 1974 and Trooper Bruce Heck in 1997.
Nationally, we all know of the tragic death of Officer Sean Collier of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Police Department, shot to death by suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing less than a month ago.
There are so many more officers, less known, who have died in the line of duty over the past year. The “Officer Down” honor roll lists 41 line-of-duty deaths so far in the U.S. this year. (That number doesn’t include K9 deaths; two police dogs were killed by gunfire, and one stabbed to death, in 2013 so far, the site reports.)
On Friday, and next Wednesday, too: If you pray, say a little prayer for the fallen officers and for their families.
Those families will never forget what their beloveds did; nor should we.