On Monday, May 15, Alaska Peace Officer Memorial Day, we honor the brave men and women who have given their lives in the line of duty to protect and serve our communities as peace officers. They are our heroes, our role models, our friends and our family members. They have made the ultimate sacrifice for a cause greater than themselves: the safety and well-being of their fellow Alaskans.
As commissioner of the Alaska Department of Public Safety and a 30-year Alaska State trooper, I have witnessed first hand the courage and dedication of these fallen officers. I have also seen the pain and grief of their loved ones, who must cope with the loss of someone they cherished. I have attended too many funerals, too many memorials, too many vigils.
I know that nothing can fill the void left by the 69 fallen officers who died while serving Alaskans. Nothing can ease the sorrow of their families. Nothing can erase the memories of their colleagues. But we can do something to honor their legacy. We can do something to show our respect and appreciation. We can do something to support their loved ones.
We can stand together as a state and as a nation to recognize the service and sacrifice of these fallen officers. We can wear blue ribbons, light candles, fly flags at half-staff. These small acts can let their family members and colleagues know that they were appreciated, and they are not forgotten. We can thank the officers who are still on duty, who continue to risk their lives every day for us.
We can also commit ourselves to building a society that values and respects the rule of law, that fosters trust and cooperation between law enforcement and citizens, that promotes justice and peace for all. We can work together to address the challenges and problems that face our communities, such as crime, sexual assault, violence, and illicit drug trafficking. We can strive to make our world a better place for ourselves and for future generations.
Today, we remember the fallen officers who have died in the line of duty. Tomorrow, we honor them by living up to their example. They are not forgotten. They are not gone. They are with us in spirit, in memory and in inspiration.
James Cockrell is the commissioner of the Alaska Department of Public Safety. He is a 30-year veteran of the Alaska State Troopers.