Fallen officers honored at annual ceremony
SALEM — One hundred and eighty-two flags lined the driveway outside the Oregon Public Safety Academy — one for each law enforcement officer who has died in the line of duty since the 1880s.
Family members, co-workers and friends of fallen officers gathered Tuesday at the annual Oregon Fallen Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Ceremony. Each of the flags tells a story, said Gov. Kate Brown. Every single one evokes a memory of service and tragic loss.
The name of Coos County Sheriff's Deputy Gil Datan was added to the memorial in 2016. Next year, Seaside Police Sgt. Jason Goodding's name will join Datan's on the wall.
"It is my sincere hope that no additional names are added to this memorial next year or any year hence," Brown said.
Law enforcement officers from Washington and Canada as well as from Oregon's city, county, state, tribal and federal agencies congregated at the memorial ceremony.
Brown thanked law enforcement for their commitment to their communities.
"Your dedicated service to our state is not taken for granted and is very much appreciated," she said.
Families of fallen officers filled the chairs at the ceremony. The U.S., Oregon and Canadian flags flew at half-staff, and the Portland Police Highland Guard played a bagpipe-filled rendition of "Amazing Grace."
Each family was accompanied in and out of the service by a law enforcement officer
"We know there are no words that can restore your loss, but know that the legacies of each of these officers will not be forgotten," Brown said.
Dianne Bernhard, a former law enforcement officer and the executive director of the Concerns of Police Survivors, recalled the loss of having a fellow officer killed when she was serving as a patrol sergeant. She advised friends, family members and colleagues of fallen officers to seek support and grieve in their own way.
"We understand that your officer's death was public," she said. "It's very hard to grieve in public."
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund released a roll call of 252 U.S. law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty, 123 of whom died in 2015.
A flag was folded in Datan's honor and flower wreaths were placed at the memorial wall.
Datan, 43, served a 19 years in law enforcement. On April 20, 2015, while on forest patrol for the Coos County Sheriff's Office, Datan attempted to go up a steep embankment on his ATV. When the ATV rolled over, Datan was thrown off and killed.
Coos County Sheriff Craig Zanni reminisced about Datan's reputation as a warmhearted deputy who volunteered with the fire department and sent singing telegrams on Valentine's Day.
"He was quick with a smile, and he loved life," Zanni said.
Three academy students read all 182 names, including Datan's, aloud.
By remembering fallen officers, we honor them and give the nation hope, Bernhard said.
She quoted words written on a memorial wall by a fallen officer's widow: "It's not how these officers died that made them heroes, it's how they lived."