‘Carved on these walls’: Police Week shines light on sacrifice

May 23, 2018

Dartmouth Police officer Joe Vieira will always remember seeing a little boy who sat playing with his Hot Wheels while facing a photo of his father taped to a wall.

The boy’s father had been killed in the line of duty, his name forever becoming a part of 21,000 others engraved at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C.

It’s one of the scenes Vieira witnessed while participating in National Police Week in the nation’s capital. The event is dedicated to honoring and remembering those who have served but were unable to return home from the job.

One of the places officers can visit during the event is the memorial site, where two 304 feet long blue-grey marble walls curve around the park and are filled with the names of officers who have died in the line of duty dating back to 1791. Protecting the wall are four groups of sculpted adult lions guarding their cubs, each with a corresponding quote.

"Carved on these walls is the story of America, of a continuing quest to preserve both democracy and decency, and to protect a national treasure that we call the American dream," one quote by former president George H.W. Bush read.

It is a surreal reminder of the everyday possibility first responders face in the line of duty, Vieira said.

“It is an emotional thing,” Vieira said. “We all know what the job is, what may or may not happen, but hopefully no one ever lives through that. The hardest thing I think if you talk to anybody who goes down there is to walk through the memorial site itself.”

Vieira, a Massachusetts Police Association board member, went down to this year’s event with the association’s president and two other Dartmouth officers and placed a banner with names and photos of fallen officers from the state.

The week-long event also includes a candlelight vigil where the names of fallen officers from the past year are read. This year there were five officers from Massachusetts read off the list. In 2017 alone there was a total 121 officers who died.

Dartmouth Police officers Scott Affonce and Sean McGuire also attended the ceremonies down in Washington, D.C. Affonce, who has been going down there for 18 years said the vigil is beautiful and heartbreaking all at the same time.

For him, being there is a moment to reflect, to honor, and to never forget those who have sacrificed their lives. He said people don’t walk away with dry eyes when they see the memorial site.

“I feel that the new officers and everybody should experience once in their career,” Affonce said.