Law enforcement community honors officers killed in the line of duty
SPRINGFIELD -- After a delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic last year, members of Illinois' law enforcement community gathered in Springfield Thursday to honor officers killed in the line of duty in 2019 and 2020.
In a ceremony at the Illinois State Capitol, the names of 16 Illinois officers killed in the line of duty over the past two years, as well as six historic honorees, were read and added to the Illinois Police Officers Memorial on the Capitol grounds.
Speaking during the ceremony, Gloria Bodnar, member of the Illinois Police Officers Memorial Committee, expressed gratitude to police officers for how they endure struggles on a day-to-day basis. She said names etched on the memorial walls will be remembered by friends and loved ones forever. Her husband, William Bodnar Jr., was killed in duty in 1974, and his name appears on the wall.
"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," Bodnar said. "This memorial stands as a symbol that is dedicated to the men and women killed in the line of duty whose names are now etched in stone."
"We will say their names today. And we will remember their lives, and we will appreciate their service, and honor their sacrifice. Because that's what we can do."
State Treasurer Michael Frerichs also spoke at the ceremony, offering his gratitude to the service of Illinois police officers and condolences to the families.
"It's been a difficult year, but not nearly as difficult as what these families experience every day, knowing their loved ones aren't coming home again," Frerichs said.
Frerichs echoed words from President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, saying that the honored officers "shall not have died in vain."
"Today we are here, as we should be, to mourn those who have died so that we may live in peace," he said.
Ron Watkins, son of David Watkins, former president of the Illinois Police Officers Memorial Committee who helped organize the construction of the memorial, said it stands as a powerful testament to officers who have lost their lives.
"This is really here for the surviving families. It's for them, and a memory for those officers," Watkins said.
Following remarks from speakers, memorial plaques were presented to the families and colleagues of each of the 16 officers added to the memorial wall.
David Johnson, president of the Illinois Police Officers Memorial Committee, closed the ceremony by saying the memorial forever will stand to honor the officers who gave their lives in defense of the public's safety.
"We come here not to honor how your family member died, but how they lived their life. Because that is their true mark that they left," Johnson said.