It is often said by local law officers after they put themselves in harm's way that they were just doing their job and they would do it again.
The most recent example is when Crook County Deputy Mitch Madden and Prineville Police Officer James Young were given state recognition for entering a burning travel trailer to pull a man trapped inside to safety.
What is striking is how readily they will say that they were just doing their job — as if it was just another day at the office. Of course, those of us who are not in law enforcement know better. Entering a fully engulfed structure is more than just a punch of the clock, and the same can be said for officers who show up on scene after some reports that shots have been fired. Most people don't go to work where life-threatening danger is just an emergency call away.
Sadly, some in law enforcement, who have families and live lives outside of their work like the rest of us, pay the ultimate sacrifice on the job.
May 15 is designated as Peace Officers Memorial Day. The day of recognition was created on Oct. 1, 1961, when Congress asked President John F. Kennedy to set aside the day to honor peace officers. Kennedy signed the bill into law one year later, Oct. 1, 1962. The day is designated to pay tribute to the local, state, and federal peace officers who have died, or who have been disabled, in the line of duty.
For the past few years, city and county law enforcement have taken time to remember fallen officers and recognize the national day with a special flag ceremony on the courthouse lawn. Dressed in uniform and standing together as a group, the two agencies gather as their leaders, Sheriff John Gautney and Police Chief Dale Cummins, give sobering speeches about the memorial day and cite statistics about the many who have died in the line of duty throughout Oregon that year.
In past interviews, local officials have commented that the day packs an emotional punch. They reflect on the dangers of the job and mourn those who have given their life to protect and serve. As stoic as officers are outwardly when they tell people that they were just doing their job, heavy emotions lie beneath the surface.
The local flag ceremony, which is scheduled this Wednesday, May 15, at 10 a.m. in front of the Crook County Courthouse, is open to the public, and citizens are encouraged to attend. Those who can should show up and show their support. Not many are willing to face the dangers that come with the law enforcement profession, and those who are deserve our gratitude for it. After all, what they do goes well beyond "just doing their job."
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