Hines VA Hospital hosts Peace Officers Memorial Day Remembrance Ceremony

Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital hosted a remembrance ceremony on May 15 to honor law enforcement lost in the line of duty as part of Peace Officers Memorial Day.

"This is a day that we pay respect," said Hines VA Deputy Police Chief Joseph Elena. "It's important that we stand with the families and the communities that have lost officers over the last years."

The hour-long ceremony featured law enforcement from across Cook County alongside VA police, including color guards from the Cook County Sheriff's Office and Berwyn Police Department.

"It's a big deal for me and for the Hines Police Department to bring police departments from all over the area together to honor everybody that's given the ultimate sacrifice," said Hines VA Police Cpt. Jorge Davila, who also organized the event.

Davila explained the risks faced by law enforcement, exemplified by the 137 officers and 25 canine officers killed nationwide in 2023.

"It makes you realize that when you put on the uniform, there's a possibility that you might not come home," Davila said.

Frank Hernandez knows this firsthand. The retired Cook County Sheriff and Vietnam veteran lost two colleagues over his 28-year career.

"Not too many police officers get honored, but we're like a brotherhood. Everybody shows up for the funeral," he explained. "We have to stick together."

The event concluded with the names of every officer lost in 2023 read aloud and a rendition of Amazing Grace by the Chicago Police Department's bagpipe and drum group.

Davila hopes next year's ceremony will have less names to recognize but the number of officers lost increases each day.

"In 2024, we've already had 58 deaths [and] six canines," he explained. "I hope people appreciate what we do every day. I mean, we sacrifice family time. We sacrifice our safety for people we don't know. It's what we do."

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