My family and I arrived on our recent trip to Washington, D.C. ready to explore the city. This was a trip our family starting planning last year. One of the greatest things about being an LEO and social media is you make friends and connections with other LEO’s around the world and within our great nation. A good friend from the D.C. Metropolitan Police provided great information ahead of time for our family to stay at a great hotel near a METRO subway station, tips on securing tour tickets to many popular sites and some of best and inexpensive places to eat. This was my kid’s first visit and my second trip to D.C. My first trip was with my late Dad in 1976 and I must admit that a lot of things have changed.
Our first morning was spent getting our bearings with the Metro, Union Station and walking around following a small city map. Once we got adjusted, our first stop was 400 7th Street NW which is the location of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Visitor Center. Our family proceeded to take the short walk around the block to Judiciary Square on E Street NW where the Memorial is open to the every one 24 hours a day, every day. It is a beautiful monument which honors the 19,000 LEO’s who have died in the line of duty in the U.S. since 1791. This sacred location is an honor to our fallen brother and sisters, their families, their co-workers and to you and I who are members of this honorable profession.
After taking a walk around and photographing this beautiful location, I began my quest to find Panel 61 W: 10. My agency, the Natick Police Department has lost 1 officer in the line of duty. Officer Charles W. Mathews was struck by an automobile on Pond St. at the intersection of Palmer Ave. at 9:00 P.M. on July 17, 1921. He was transported to the hospital where he died on July 19, 1921 which is his official End of Watch. Officer Mathews’ name is on our Natick Police Department Memorial, the Massachusetts Law Enforcement Memorial in Boston and here in D.C. He was 53 years old and he left a family. A son, Charles would walk in his father’s steps later as a Natick Police Officer. The Town voted and approved a pension for his family several years later.
Many of my co-workers have visited this Memorial over the years, have attended the Police Week ceremonies and have conducted the ritual of pencil etching our fallen brother’s name off the Memorial wall. On this beautiful day it was my turn to continue the tradition.
An officer of our department, James Quilty has spent several years collecting photographs, data and stories of many of the Natick Police Officers including this photo of Officer Mathews. He is working with the Mathews family which now includes Natick Fire Department Lt. Dan Mathews to honor the sacrifice of Officer Mathews. A public hearing is scheduled by our Board of Selectmen in several weeks to seek approval to dedicate the location of this tragedy, Pond St. and Palmer Ave. in Officer Mathews honor. The plans are developing for the dedication to take place on the 91st anniversary of his death in July at this location.
Officer Quilty has a vast collection of our department personnel photographs and biographies of most members. He told me a few stories of our late brothers who left the job due to injuries and health problems. He related the story of the late Police Chief Thomas P. Evans who died of a heart attack at his desk inside his office on August 8, 1950 at age 68. Chief Evans was the Chief since 1931. It is sad to say that there are many tragedies and deaths that many our fallen have suffered that are attributed to our profession and its lifestyle but do not qualify for inclusion on this memorial.
As a profession, we have learned from these tragedies to enhance our safety and well-being. Duty equipment, communications, tactics, seeking emotional counseling, better pay and benefits and the importance of good diet and exercise are improving constantly. These are ways we can honor our fallen by reviewing these incidents and training to avoid repeating these tragedies today and in the future.
As we approach Police Week and Peace Officers Memorial Day I hope you will consider following the Below 100 campaign which is asking LEO’s to:
1. Wear your ballistic vest
2. Slow down when driving
3. Buckle up our seatbelts
4. WIN-“What’s Really Important”
5. Remember that complacency kills
Maintaining our health and wellness by maintaining a balanced diet, daily exercise, proper sleep, scheduling a physical and mental health check up with our doctor and keeping up to date on training are great ways to honor our fallen officers. This is a time to check in with our loved ones and develop our personal relationships with our families and friends both on and off the job.
On Tuesday May 15, the Natick Police Department will continue our annual tradition of hosting our Police Memorial Day ceremony with other Law Enforcement agencies and the public attending in front of our police station. Our ceremony honors our fallen while it also honors our brothers and sisters who retired from our profession, those who died in retirement and especially our families. It is our way of saying, Thank you and you are not forgotten.
Please donate and assist the many groups who support the families and co-workers of our fallen such as Concerns of Police Survivors. These organizations are the safety net and provide the delicate care needed for the survivors of our fallen.
I am looking forward to returning to D.C. in the near future especially when the new Police Museum which is currently under construction opens in 2014. I hope you and your family have the opportunity to travel to our nation’s capital and visit these sacred locations.
REMEMBER: WE ARE THE HONORABLE PROFESSION!
Stay safe and be well!
Sgt.St.Hilaire is LET’s police wellness contributor. He is a police officer in a Metro-west suburb of Boston, Massachusetts. He is a volunteer member of a regional C.I.S.M team. He can be contacted by confidential email at: [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @NPD3306 or Linked In. Sgt.St.Hilaire does not receive any compensation or consideration for any program, book or other resource that he recommends.