In the month of May, all over America, there are memorial observances honoring police officers who lose their lives in the line of duty. This observance was decreed by the late President John F. Kennedy, our Commander-in-Chief, who was himself killed in the line of duty.
In New York, representatives of police agencies gather from all over the state at the State of New York Police Officers Memorial that stands in a beautiful sunken garden at the Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller Empire State Plaza. It is a wall of polished black granite engraved with the names of all the deceased officers. The state's Governor rededicates the wall on that day and the names of officers who died over the past year are added.
Some years ago, a group of retired police officers asked me to write a poem for Police Memorial Day. With our monument in mind, I came up with this:
POLICE MEMORIAL DAY
We're gathered here, we comrades all
To write more names upon the wall;
Observing, as we do each May,
The rite we call Memorial Day.
There's prayers and tears and skirling pipes
And color guards with stars and stripes.
All somber stand the cops in ranks
While firing squads fire rounds of blanks.
'Cross every badge a band of black
To mourn all they who won't come back.
With tightened throat and gritted teeth
We watch as someone lays a wreath.
And someone rises, words to say
'Bout why we all are here today.
It's courage in the face of death;
And loyalty 'til dying breath.
It's families and what families hear
When death cuts short a cop's career.
Another spring's begun to bloom.
The sun has banished winter's gloom.
Again, we gather, comrades all.
Again, write names upon the wall.
Reflect, good people, on the cost
Each time that lives like these are lost.
And think of us who do this work;
Who carry on and never shirk.
A labor, you could say, of love
Inspiring deeds beyond, above
Our obligation to duty's call
Though our names, too, might grace the wall.
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