Kelley, Chertoff, Basham Pay Tribute To CBP Officers Killed in the Line of Duty


3/5/08: Solemn tribute was paid last night to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officers who have given their lives in the line of duty. At the annual Vigil of Lights, NTEU National President Colleen Kelley was joined by Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Michael Chertoff, CBP Commissioner W. Ralph Basham and U.S. Rep. Chris Carney (D-Pa.).

Each year, NTEU remembers these brave public servants at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in downtown Washington. The candlelight ceremony involved nearly 200 members of NTEU, many of whom are CBP Officers at ports of entry across the United States.

“Every day, front-line CBP Officers take up arms to protect this nation, and this evening we salute them and pay homage to those officers who have died in the line of duty,” said President Kelley, asking all those in attendance to join her “in solemn gratitude for those who have given their lives, and those that protect us every day.”

Secretary Chertoff paid his respects “to those who gave their lives in the service of their country,” calling it “a supreme sacrifice.” The DHS Secretary also acknowledged the sacrifice made by families of officers who have lost their loved ones and families of officers who experience “a dread and uncertainty” each day that their loved ones will not return from work.

Rep. Carney said he was not only “honored” to pay tribute to the fallen officers but “humbled.”

“It is a chance not only to honor those who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty, but also to pay tribute to those officers who put their lives on the line every day.”

“The CBP agents and officers are America’s frontline,” said Commissioner Basham. “They know the responsibility they have and they are dedicated to it.”

The Vigil honors all CBP officers who have died in service to the nation going back to the establishment nearly 220 years ago of the then-Customs Service—including, President Kelley noted, Border Patrol Agent Luis Aguilar, who died just six weeks ago while protecting the border.

Along with the procession of uniformed CBP Officers along the Walk of Remembrance and the lighting of candles—each from a single candle so that the burden is shared—a highlight of the Vigil is the reading aloud of the name of each person who has died in the line of duty. The participants read groups of names in turn, after which a wreath was placed by a member of the CBP Honor Guard.

“U.S. Customs Service Officers were among the first federal law enforcement officers to lay down their lives protecting this country,” said President Kelley. “The dangers they face with the 21st century challenges of terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, illegal drug and contraband trafficking have changed, but their commitment and integrity have not. We pray that gathering here will bring peace to those who have fallen and strength to those who live on.”

The low granite walls of the memorial have engraved on them the names of some 18,000 law enforcement officers from around the nation and from all levels of government who have died in the line of duty.