The line-of-duty death of a law enforcement officer can be particularly painful for the officer's family and friends, Jay Schroeder told more than 700 people gathered Saturday morning for the annual Missouri Law Enforcement Memorial.
Schroeder, the president of Missouri State Fraternal Order of Police, acknowledged that feelings of anger and hurt can well up in a heartbeat. But that is expected, and there is nothing wrong with it, he continued.
"God expects us to miss those we love. And we most often do not have answers for tragedies that happen," Schroeder said.
And people can rely on God for comfort.
The names of 11 members of the law enforcement community who have died in the line of duty were added to the memorial Saturday.
"Since the beginning of time, there has been a need for law enforcement. The Good Lord has entrusted us with a job to protect those who cannot protect themselves," Schroeder said. "And to right the wrongs in our communities."
Gov. Mike Parson shared that first lady Teresa Parson's brother-in-law died in the line of duty as an emergency medical technician. That creates a unique connection with other families who have lost someone in the line of duty, he explained.
"This is one of those occasions you somewhat look forward to ... but you don't look forward to," Parson said. "Because of what all this means -- about sacrifices of individuals."
And when Parson was a sheriff, one of his officers died in the line of duty. He described the day as one of the worst of his life.
"You know what those days were like. I don't need to remind anybody of that," he said. "But I will remind you of this -- it's about the days after, and it's about the days before, and it's about how they lived.
"Those are the things that you come back to remember."
Parson said he couldn't offer the correct words to give anybody the comfort they seek. Nobody can, he said. What he can do is assure that no officer's death will be in vain, Parson said.
The vast majority of everyday, good people respect what the officers have done, and what officers continue to do, he added.
Activists and politicians may sometimes want to put law enforcement in a bad light, he said.
All the men and women in uniform who gathered Saturday morning on the north side of the Capitol and the agencies they represented do what other people don't want to do, Parson said.
"No matter what the situation is, they're going to answer the call for me and you," he said. "And they're going to take the risks that they took -- that's why we're honoring them today -- they take the risk for me and you 24 hours a day, seven days a week."
The hundreds gathered were there to honor them, not just Saturday, but in the future, he said.
Parson said he keeps the photo of a small boy on his desk. The boy is the son of an officer who died on duty. Parson said he never met the officer.
It remains on Parson's desk, he said, to remind him not of the officer, for whom he has high regard, despite never having met him.
"It's about that child. Life will go on. And the families have to go on," Parson said. "And, we have to make sure as individuals that we help protect them -- that we are one big family that helps one another out."
The names of eight law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty in 2022, and one who died in 2021, have been added to the Missouri Law Enforcement Memorial. Alongside those names, officials also added two names of men who historically died in the line of duty.
Organizers on Friday evening hosted a candlelight vigil at the memorial, which stands on the north side of the State Capitol. Parson ordered the Capitol dome be lighted blue overnight to honor the fallen.
New names added to the wall, which now lists 742 officers include:
Janell L. Visser, a Miller County Sheriff's Office detention sergeant who died on Jan. 9, 2022, after contracting COVID-19 while on duty.
William Clark Hayes, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer who died Jan. 3, 2022, after contracting COVID-19 while on duty.
Donald Eugene Riffe Jr., the Jefferson College Police Department chief, who died Jan. 20, 2022, after contracting COVID-19 while on duty.
Benjamin Lee Cooper, a Joplin Police Department corporal, who was shot and killed by a gunman March 8, 2022, while he responded to a disturbance call at a business.
Jake Reed, a Joplin Police Department officer, who was shot March 8, 2022, and died on March 9, 2022, after he responded to a disturbance call at a business.
Lane A. Burns, a Bonne Terre Police Department officer, who was shot and killed on March 17, 2022, after he responded to a disturbance at a motel.
David P. Jones, a Benton County Sheriff's Office corporal, who suffered a fatal heart attack on April 28, 2022, shortly after his shift ended. Jones had conducted traffic enforcement and responded to an assault call on the day he died. The previous day, he had administered first aid to a person who had been set on fire with gasoline.
Daniel Francisco Vasquez, a North Kansas City Police Department officer, whom a motorist shot and killed during a traffic stop on July 19, 2022.
James Dale Holdman Jr., a U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement special agent, who died on July 25, 2021, when his service weapon accidentally discharged as he prepared to fly from Springfield to Washington, D.C.
Alonzo F. Hertig, a City of Blue Springs marshal, died Nov. 5, 1923, after exchanging gunfire with a criminal suspect. Hertig shot and killed the gunman, but later died from a gunshot wound he had suffered.
Robert Boone Harris, Laclede County sheriff and Union Army veteran, died May 17, 1865, when a band of Confederate guerrillas -- who also attacked and killed other Union supporters -- hanged him.