The month of May has always had special meaning for not only myself, but for all police officers who serve all over this country. For the men and women of the Salt River Police Department (SRPD), this month is particularly difficult because it commemorates the anniversary of the tragic loss of our own fallen hero, Officer Jair Cabrera, who was killed in the line of duty on May 24, 2014.
During the weeks leading up to National Peace Officers Memorial Day, celebrated every May 15, thousands of law enforcement officers and their families travel to our nation’s capital to attend numerous services and events, sponsored by organizations such as the Fraternal Order of Police and the Concerns Of Police Survivors.
This year, I chose to travel to Washington, D.C., where I participated in many events representing the Salt River Police Department Honor Guard. Although every event was important, the candlelight vigil is most special for me. With literally thousands in attendance, the names of all 252 police officers who fell in the line of duty last year (2015) were read and their names were permanently engraved onto the blue and gray marble walls of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial. These 304- foot-long walls sadly contain the names of over 20,000 federal, state, local and tribal police officers who died in the line of duty dating back to 1791.
I proudly stood by as a number of transport buses carrying friends, family and loved ones arrived, and I could instantly feel and understood the loss of so many. One by one each passenger exited the bus and was met by the waiting Honor Guard cordon. I observed wives, husbands, children, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, friends and co-workers moving toward the ceremonial site, expressing all over again the terrible sense of loss they experienced over the past year. My role during this event was to provide comfort to the fallen officers’ surviving loved ones as I escorted them to the seating area.
While doing so, I had the honor to speak with many fallen officer survivors. It was not uncommon for them to share not only the names of those who had fallen, but their stories as well. One example was the best friend of fallen Bakersfield police officer David Nelson (End of Watch June 26, 2015). She had attended college with Officer Nelson in Washington, D.C., and described how he had a love for life and a passion for helping others. Upon graduation, he received an internship at a local institution with a promising future. But Officer Nelson could not see himself as a civil servant stationed behind a desk. He instead chose a career in law enforcement. Officer Nelson served in the community he grew up in and often shared with everyone how happy he was there. Tragically, only two years into his service, he was killed during a pursuit that resulted in an automobile collision. His story, along with many others, was repeated to each Honor Guard escort throughout the vigil. We heard not only story after story about the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice, but we also heard the tragic stories about the men and women who were left behind.
Upon returning to the Valley, I learned of the tragic loss of Phoenix Police Officer David Glasser. I could not help reflecting back on my recent trip and emotionally preparing myself for the grief that the coming week would bring. I knew I would stand proudly by as thousands of guests and fellow officers from all over this state paid their respects to Officer Glasser as they did only two years ago when we lost our own, Officer Jair Cabrera.
May will come again, and I hope and pray I will have the opportunity to return to Washington to proudly represent the men and women of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and the Salt River Police Department as Officer David Glasser’s name is read and inscribed for all the world to see and never forget. “God Bless the men and women in law enforcement that I serve with, for you are each heroes.”
Sgt. Louis Lombari is a 19-year veteran of law enforcement in Arizona, with 13 years of service with the SRPD. He currently supervises the Traffic Enforcement Bureau, with the responsibility of keeping our Community roads and streets safe through education, investigation and enforcement of all traffic-related incidents. Sgt. Lombari paid his own way to Washington to participate in this year’s memorial services.