Families and Officers Gather for Annual National Peace Officers Memorial Service – NBC Los Angeles Washington DC

At the National Peace Officers Annual Memorial Service on Sunday, families and law enforcement officers formed a guardians’ meeting. The attendees could feel the camaraderie between departments and emotional reunions, but always the solemnity of the event.

“It’s bittersweet because we remember the fallen and live with families left behind,” said Benjamin Moreno, a retired US Border Patrol agent.

“It’s sobering. We were at the candlelight vigil the other night, and when we turned around and looked back just to see how far it went toward the Capitol, it was amazing to see that there were so many people supporting those who had fallen.” Pennsylvania resident Anna Prado said.

Among the fallen is a member of Prado’s extended family who lost his life in October. She and hundreds of others ended a week of remembrance with a Sunday service of sorts, amid the hum of bagpipes on the Capitol’s West Lawn.

“Families are here, law enforcement is here to support those families,” said Officer Zach Zaldivar, of Alexandria, Louisiana.

They also came together to reflect sober thoughts on the call they have answered, and the toll that call can take when they have to step into the fray.

“These people died protecting them. It’s down now, people don’t respect the police. Well, actually, they don’t respect each other,” said Officer Alan Stoken, of Alexandria, Louisiana.

Just a few blocks away, the names of the fallen are etched into the National Law Enforcement Officers Monument. Meanwhile, the memories and pain of loss are etched in the souls of the survivors.

This year three hundred names were added to the memorial. Of those, 177 of those deaths were related to COVID-19.

“The day will come that will bring a smile to your lips before it brings a tear to your eyes, and through your pain and your willingness to find a purpose worthy of how they lived, you will get through it,” President Joe Biden said. “But there’s nothing easy about it.”

And nothing comes easy in a job where showing up changes lives, for better or worse, on either side of the badge.

“You should know that we are there to protect you and to solve your problem that day,” said Officer Jorhonda Stokes, of Alexandria, Louisiana.

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