Peace Officer Memorial Day: Honoring Those Who Have Fallen

Did you know there is more than one Memorial Day in the US?

If there is one thing we know for sure, it’s how important it is to remember and pay tribute to those who have died for our freedom. That is why, every year on the last Monday in May, we observe Memorial Day in the United States. The day gives us the opportunity to reflect on those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country

Did you know, however, that there is a specific day of remembrance for peace officers? Each year on May 15th, we recognize all of the courageous local, state, and federal peace officers who have either lost their lives or suffered disabilities while carrying out their duties. Police Week also coincides with this day, and a solemn memorial ceremony in Washington D.C. honors these heroes through a candlelight vigil and speeches that pay tribute to both past and present officers. 

In acknowledgement of the enormous debt we owe to those who ensure our safety and security, we have compiled a brief history of this important day, along with some suggestions on how best to express our gratitude. So, what is the true purpose of Peace Officers Memorial Day, and what does it truly stand for?

A Lasting Legacy

Peace Officers Memorial Day offers a time to pay our respects to the brave local, state, and federal peace officers who have lost their lives or suffered disabilities while serving their communities.

The history of peace officers in the United States dates back to the mid-1600s, when the first public peace officers emerged in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. Initially, these officers were volunteers who acted as night watchmen and reported any incidents of bad behavior by fellow citizens. As the need for organized law enforcement grew, the first publicly funded, organized police force was set up in Boston in 1838, paying officers to work full-time.

By the late 1880s, all major U.S. cities had police forces. However, priorities differed from state to state, depending on the problems faced in each area. Law enforcement heads were often chosen by the local political leader, which meant that law enforcement could work in favor of the ruling political party. Citizens found that this setup ended up violating a lot of what America stands for in the way of liberty and honor. An important decision needed to be made that would set America on the path to clear and unmuddied waters.

This response came from President Hoover, who, in 1929, set up a nationwide investigation into the effectiveness of law enforcement. The investigation called for peace officers to work in a professional and impartial way to enforce the law—it became a turning point in the history of peace officers, promoting the selflessness and bravery that we now honor every year on May 15.

Honoring the Fallen

President John F. Kennedy signed the bill celebrating Peace Officers Memorial Day into law in October of 1962, although its observance was officially established in 1963. The bill designated May 15 as Peace Officers Memorial Day and established the week in which May 15 falls as Police Week.  

President Kennedy felt it was important to recognize the role law enforcement officers play in keeping our communities safe. During his proclamation in May of 1963, Kennedy began by stating that “law enforcement officers have played an important role” since “the beginning of this Nation.” He also emphasized that “their devoted service to our communities has earned them our deep and lasting gratitude.” President Kennedy also paid tribute to those officers who had lost their lives or suffered disabilities while serving their communities.

Since then, every President has issued a similar proclamation each year, continuing the tradition of honoring and recognizing the sacrifices made by peace officers. Additionally, a memorial service is held every year on Peace Officers Memorial Day in Washington D.C., which includes the reading of the names of officers who have fallen in the line of duty.

Continued Tribute

Each year, as we observe Peace Officers Memorial Day, let us pay tribute to the brave men and women who have dedicated their lives to keep us safe and secure. Let us remember their sacrifices and the enormous debt we owe them. It is a time to reflect on the history of peace officers in the United States and to express our gratitude for their continued service.

Gettysburg Flag Works observes these important days and strives to honor those who have fallen. That’s why we have created special grave markers to honor the courageous men and women who have died in the line of duty. We also offer stick flags to be placed at the memorial sites or graves of these fallen heroes.

Need help finding something? Contact Gettysburg Flag Works online or give us a call at 1-888-697-3524. We’d be happy to assist you.


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