U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton joined ICE employees at ICE's Washington, D.C., headquarters to honor the agency's officers and agents who paid the ultimate price in the line of duty.
Monday's event was held in commemoration of the 31st annual National Police Week. This year, May 13 to May 19 has been designated as National Police Week.
After the call to order by Office of Public Affairs Assistant Director Brian Hale, the ICE honor guard kicked off the ceremony by presenting the colors. Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent Patrick Wilhelm – the brother of fallen ICE Assistant Special Agent in Charge David Gray Wilhelm – sang the National Anthem.
In her remarks, Napolitano spoke about the importance of respecting those who made the sacrifice, remembering their lives, the examples they set and their lasting impact.
"We can never undo their loss," said Napolitano. "We can never say thank you enough times for what they and their families have given. But we can continue to honor them through our own service and by holding the ideals they embodied. We will forever remain in their debt."
Law enforcement is a serious business and an honorable calling that comes with real danger and real risk, Morton said.
In fact – according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund – an average of one law enforcement officer is killed in the line of duty somewhere in the United States every 53 hours. Sadly in 2011, 173 men and women were killed in the line of duty. One was an ICE special agent.
Morton encouraged attendees to honor the fallen in their daily lives and thanked the attending family members of fallen special agents and officers Jaime Zapata, David Wilhelm, Lorenzo Gomez, Manuel Zuritas VII, Gary Friedli and Juan Orellana.
"Please remember the officers and agents we honor today," said Morton. "Celebrate who they were and try to live right by them."
Deputy Director Kumar Kibble, Homeland Security Investigations Executive Associate Director Jim Dinkins and Enforcement Removal Operations Deputy Executive Associate Director Tom Homan each placed a yellow rose in a memorial wreath to represent ICE's 49 agents and officers who gave their lives in service to the agency, those fallen officers from other DHS components and those from state and local law enforcement partners who lost their lives in the line of duty, respectively.
Family members also placed white roses in a vase near ICE's Wall of Honor, where each of their loved ones is remembered with an engraved plaque.
After the ceremony, the family members traveled to National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial where names of federal, state and local law enforcement fallen officers are engraved. This year, the name of Special Agent Zapata, ICE's most recent special agent to lose his life in the line of duty, was added to the granite wall.