Ceremony honors 48 NH officers killed in the line of duty

By DOUG ALDEN
New Hampshire Union Leader
May 19. 2017 11:00PM
A line of state troopers salute during the New Hampshire Law Enforcement Officers' 25th Memorial Ceremony in Concord on Friday. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

CONCORD — Law enforcement members from agencies throughout the state gathered in Concord on Friday to honor the memory of the 48 New Hampshire officers who have been killed in the line of duty.

Gov. Chris Sununu ordered flags in the state to fly at half-staff Friday in conjunction with the 25th annual New Hampshire Law Enforcement Memorial Ceremony outside the state legislative office building.

Several hundred people attended the ceremony, which took place in front of the actual memorial created to honor New Hampshire’s law enforcement agents that made the ultimate sacrifice.

“It’s a great tribute for the families — to be able to come and understand that no one has forgotten them. That’s important,” said Col. Kevin Jordan of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department.

Jordan is also president of the NH Law Enforcement Memorial Association and served as master of ceremonies, joining other Fish and Game agents in their red and green dress uniforms, complete with white gloves. The display of uniforms was also apparent in color guard units from across the state ringing the area surrounding the memorial, where each fallen officer’s name is etched on the stone walls.

“You have guys in that honor guard up there that worked a night shift and never slept. They stayed up the rest of the night to polish their gear to be here today,” Jordan said. “They say it’s not that big of a deal, but it is a very big deal. It’s a very big deal to the families.”

Jordan said it can be an emotional challenge each year to recall friends and colleagues that died doing their jobs. But the ceremony isn’t just a way for law enforcement to pay respects to fallen colleagues.

Jordan said it can also be a healing experience for the officers’ families, many of whom attend each year for the solemn roll call.

Spouses, children and family members have made a connection over the years and bonded over the shared loss. Many were reunited after the ceremony within the walls of the memorial, posing for photos and making an etching of the names.

“We’ve created an address book so if the families are willing, they can exchange addresses and keep in touch with each other,” Jordan said. “We didn’t know how that was going to be accepted by the families, but it’s been really popular. I’m glad to see that because it builds the camaraderie that we’re looking for.”

Sununu was the keynote speaker and his predecessor, U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, was among the dignitaries in the rows of chairs lined up on State and Capitol streets, which were blocked off from traffic during the ceremony. State troopers and officers from local departments sat in the bright sun. Families had a little cover from a tent set up on Capitol Street facing the memorial.

Sununu said the ceremony is a moving, emotional experience every year.

“It’s really about making sure that we’re paying respect to those who have given so much to us,” Sununu said. “The size of the crowd that you saw here today was a great tribute to how important the people of New Hampshire really take these types of matters. We have to make sure that law enforcement knows we have their back and we support them in and out. and we’re going to be there for them because they’re there for us every single day.”

New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon J. MacDonald also participated, reading out all 48 names during the emotional wreath ceremony. After each name was read, a family member, or representative of the agency, came forward and placed a red flower in the wreaths.

Flowers were also placed in honor of officers who died outside the line of duty and those who died in the line of duty outside of New Hampshire,

Once all the flowers were placed, the tribute continued with a rifle salute by a New Hampshire State Police unit, the playing of “Taps” and the New Hampshire Pipes and Drums playing “Amazing Grace.”

The bagpipers and drummers then led the procession after the ceremony to a reception just up the street at Concord’s City Hall complex.

Sununu said it’s important for Granite Staters to be aware of and respect the sacrifices made by the state’s law enforcement agents and their families.

“It’s just an absolutely beautiful ceremony,” Sununu said. “We’re not just here to remember names on a wall. We’re here to remember friends and family.”

dalden@unionleader.com


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