SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Roughly 300 people met outside the Illinois Capitol Thursday morning to honor police officers taken from their families too soon.
The state usually holds an annual memorial service, but organizers had to cancel last year’s event due to the COVID-19 pandemic. State leaders joined police to honor the 16 officers killed in the line of duty in 2019 and 2020. They also recognized six honorary officers who passed years ago. The names of each officer appear on the brand new addition to the police memorial outside the Capitol.
Treasurer Michael Frerichs told families he looks forward to the day that the state won’t have to put more names on the wall.
“We live in a country with police officers proud to serve and protect their community knowing that what they do will risk their own safety,” Frerichs said. “A country with men and women willing to help the most vulnerable even though not everyone will appreciate or even acknowledge their sacrifice.”
Several survivors spoke to the families during the ceremony Thursday. Gloria Bodnar lost her husband, William Bodnar Jr, in 1974.
“We became part of a group that we didn’t want to join – the families of police officers killed in the line of duty,” Bodnar said. “But it’s not how these officers died that made them heroes. It’s how they lived. We are here today to honor their life, their service, and their stories.”
As a member of the Illinois Police Memorial Committee, Bodnar thanked those currently serving and dealing with constant challenges. She said the thin blue line for police continues to stretch “thinner and thinner.”
“Hate speech against police was and is rampant, but the cops continued to do their job,” Bodnar explained. “Staying calm when you’re being denigrated is a super power. But, that’s what cops do.”
Each family that lost a loved one received plaques from the Fraternal Order of Police and other law enforcement leaders. They also received flowers and a wreath with the name of their officer.
Committee President David Johnson thanked families for coming to the first ceremony with the updated memorial. He stressed this memorial will be a space for families whenever they want to visit their loved ones.
“We come here not to honor how your family member died, but how they lived their life,” Johnson said. “Because that is their true mark that they left.”
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