Every day law enforcement officers put their lives at risk in order to protect others. They commit to being upstanding role models of integrity, respect and honor. From May 10 through May 13, two Marana police officers will take part in honoring those who have fallen in the line of duty by taking part in the Police Unity Tour.
Last year, the Marana Police Department (MPD) joined more than 1,000 officers from across the country at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The memorial is held to not only honor fallen officers, but also to raise funds to support research, raise awareness and maintain the national memorial.
Sgt. Will Hess of the MPD was one of a few officers to represent Team Arizona in the ride. Hess considered it a tremendous privilege to be one of a few officers to represent Southern Arizona and be part of such an event.
“It’s inspiring to me and tremendously inspiring to other people as well. People are out there to support law enforcement,” said Hess. “There are so many people donating their personal time, money and property to this and it’s just a great cause.”
The Police Unity Tour started in 1997 with only 18 riders who rode from New Jersey to Washington, D.C. Last year, they had almost 1,700 riders and ended up raising $1.7 million dollars. Hess and Officer Brad Clifford, along with Sgt. Terry Staten from the Pima County Sheriff’s Department, will go this year.
Team Arizona will meet in Portsmouth, Va. where they will meet up with a Florida based chapter. From there they will ride 250 miles, passing by other historical memorials until reaching the memorial for fallen officers. The streets will be lined with volunteers and spectators as the riders ride into the memorial in a two-by-two formation.
This year, Team Arizona will ride in honor of a police officer who died on the way to work. Some of the fallen officers families join in the ceremony on the final day. They are honored in a vigil – one that is somber, yet inspiring.
“When it really gets to you is during the vigil when you begin to realize you’re there because they’ve died in the line of duty. That’s heartfelt,” said Hess. “People thank you just for doing your job.”
The event also sheds a positive light on the role officers play in their communities. It reassures officers that their job is not done in vain and that their efforts are appreciated.
“Without the community support we don’t get our job done – that they can trust us and depend on us when we make decisions,” said Hess, who adds that even a small word of encouragement helps support officers. “When you talk to the right person at the right time they can fuel you for another day at work or another year.”