CAMP ARIFJAN, KUWAIT- Red and blue police lights illuminated the night sky in front of the Zone 1 chapel here on Friday, May 5, 2017, officially kicking off the start of Law Enforcement weekend.
Personnel from Operation Spartan Shield and Operation Inherent Resolve gathered together for a candlelight vigil on Friday evening. Col. Laurence Lobdell, Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, spoke about the importance of remembering those law enforcement officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Paul Harvey's short but powerful video "Policeman" was shown, highlighting the split second decision-making required in emergency response circumstances. At the ceremony's conclusion, each attendee held a white candle to honor the fallen in a show of unity. Many in the audience had personal reasons for attending, evident by the powerful silence as the names of the fallen since the beginning of 2017 were read aloud.
Saturday morning's observance of Law Enforcement Weekend began with a 5K run. This run reminded runners of the sacrifices police officers make daily. Many runners wore law enforcement related apparel, including t-shirts adorned with versions of the "Thin Blue Line" symbol. One person even ran wrapped in a NYPD flag.
On Sunday evening, in a room lined with all 50 state flags, Soldiers, Sailors and civilians attended a banquet dinner which marked the final event of the Law Enforcement weekend. The dinner was highlighted by the re-enlistment of Staff Sgt. Jenna Barge, one Soldier receiving a Silver Order of the Marechaussee, and 11 more Soldiers receiving a Bronze Order of the Marechaussee.
The Order of the Marechaussee was created by the Military Police Regimental Association to recognize exceptional dedication, competence and contribution to the Military Police Corps. To merit elevation to the Silver Order level, nominees must render at least 20 years of significant service or support to the Military Police Corps Regiment. To merit recognition as a Bronze Order level, nominees must have rendered at least 10 years of significant service. Additionally, nominees must also have had an outstanding and positive impact in various positions of increased responsibility during their service. Since the presentation of the first Marechaussee awards in September 2000, only 8 Gold, 283 Silver, and 1,961 Bronze medals have been awarded.
When asked what being awarded the Marechausee meant to her, Lt. Col. Andrea Sampson, U.S. Army Central Forensics Exploitation Lab Officer, explained "usually when you PCS (permanent change of station), you will get awards that are based on what the Soldiers under your command have achieved. This is recognition of what you've done in your career. Essentially the cherry on top." She continued to say that she was "fortunate to work for great people."
Col. Russell Davis, who in civilian life works with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, was the evening's guest speaker. He lamented the negative coverage of law enforcement in social media. He explained that, often, negative stories overshadow the good news coming from police departments and other law enforcement organizations. He warned, however, that even a single "bad apple" can create a wave of undesirable press.
Criminal Investigation Command Master Sgt. Frank Jeppe also spoke to the group. "It is easy to get lost in the job. Remember who you are, what your job is and what you mean to the community. If it wasn't for community, we wouldn't have jobs" he said.
The thin blue line formed by our nation's law enforcement professionals is the difference between civility and potential chaos. Overall, the weekend served as a great reminder of both those who have made the ultimate sacrifice and those who sacrifice each day to ensure our freedom and safety both home and abroad.