HOPEWELL, Va. (May 11, 2011) -- A Fort Lee Military Police sergeant who was killed in the line of duty in 1974 was among the individuals honored Wednesday during the 17th annual Tri-City Law Enforcement Memorial Breakfast at Moose Lodge 1472 in Hopewell.

The late Sgt. Gregory Lee Mathews also will be honored Friday during a candlelight vigil at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C. Mathews is the first Fort Lee police officer to have his name added to the memorial wall. The breakfast and vigil are part of the May 15-21 National Police Week observance.

Attendees at the local memorial breakfast included law enforcement personnel from the Fort Lee Military Police Detachment and the Provost Marshal Office, as well as civilian officers from police and sheriff's departments from the greater Tri-City Area and from state and federal agencies. Family members of fallen officers participated in the "Last Roll Call" that honored 18 area officers who have died in the line of duty.

Maj. Donald Moore, Fort Lee PMO and event host, was the guest speaker.

"Today we honor the heroes who have made the supreme sacrifice in days past so that we might live in peace," Moore said.

A 24-year-old military police officer, Mathews died after being struck by a vehicle on Jan. 23, 1974, while searching for inmates who had escaped from what is now the Federal Correctional Institution in Prince George County. Mathews saw a fellow Soldier in the path of a vehicle in which an inmate was escaping. He pushed that Soldier to safety and was struck.

"It has been 37 years for me," Sgt. Mark A. Mathews, Gregory's brother, wrote earlier this year. "My brother was my whole life; he taught me everything. He was my hero. He taught me to be a leader and not a follower. He taught me the true meaning of love. He was a very kind person and loved his wife dearly ... He was a true hero. Not a day goes by that I don't think of him and what he did for our family as well as the families he was with in the military," he noted.

Gregory Mathews' sacrifice and those of other officers who have died in the line of duty are just what Moore saluted in his speech.

American police officers have been dying in the line of duty since at least 1791, Moore noted. "Nearly 19,000 officers have been lost since then," he said.

"For the families of the officers that we memorialize today, I can only say, 'Thank you,'" said Moore.

"We are all indebted to you. No speech, no flag, no ceremony can bring back those who were dearest to you," he told the assembly of family members of fallen officers and hundreds of law enforcement officers.

"America is the way it is because of police officers like these fallen heroes and all of you who use intellect, reason, compassion and, when necessary, force to prevent the tyranny of those who choose to do wrong. You dedicate yourselves to preserving the freedoms of law-abiding citizens," said Moore.

The provost marshal left his audience with a request.

"Do not let this be the only day of the year that we pay tribute to our fallen heroes," he urged those in attendance. "Every day, I challenge you to honor the past and present heroes by telling their stories. Honor them by remembering and checking in on their families. Honor them by emulating their strengths and courage. Honor them by practicing and protecting our freedoms and our liberty."

Fort Lee was well represented in the program. Police Capt. John Roeleveld called the assembly to order and welcomed the audience. Police Chief Joseph Metzger recognized the participating agencies, introduced Moore and participated in the "Last Roll Call" during which Mathews and other slain area officers were honored before he made closing remarks.

An honor guard led by Police Sgt. Ricardo Williams presented and retired the colors. Former Fort Lee MP Kyrie Sims sang the national anthem.