This blog is part of a series honoring the long blue line of Coast Guard men and women who served before us. Stay tuned as we highlight the customs, traditions, history and heritage of the Coast Guard.
Written by Andrew A. Lawrence
U.S. Coast Guard, retired
Each May during Police Week, tens of thousands of law enforcement officers from around the United States and several foreign countries muster in the nation’s capital to pay tribute to fellow peace officers who have fallen in the line of duty. For an entire week, the law enforcement community honors their sacrifice and service through a series of tributes including a candlelight vigil for the recently fallen, bike rides, a 5K run, honor guard and bagpipe band competition, parades, a memorial service for family members, and a wreath laying at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.
The wreath laying ceremony is hosted by the National Conference of Law Enforcement Emerald Societies and is accompanied by the skirl of bagpipes and the rhythm of drums in a tradition long associated with the somber remembrance of fallen law enforcement officers. What may be unknown to many in the U.S. Coast Guard is that the names of 23 Coast Guardsmen are inscribed on the memorial.
In October of 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed Public Law 87-726 designating May 15 of each year as Peace Officers Memorial Day. The day was set aside, “…in honor of the federal, state, and municipal officers who have been killed or disabled in the line of duty.” The act also designates the calendar week during which May 15 occurs as “Police Week” in recognition of the service given by the men and women who serve in law enforcement. Commemoration and tributes comparable to the one held in the nation’s capital are carried out in local communities throughout the country. The honors rendered at these events are similar to the veneration of U.S. military members each Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Given that the U.S. Coast Guard’s roots stem from law enforcement, it is fitting that we reflect each May on our contribution to this very important mission.
In 1790, the first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, commissioned the construction of 10 cutters to enforce tariffs, control smuggling, and protect the nation’s revenue. The establishment of the Revenue Marine marked the birth of the Coast Guard and its law enforcement mission as agents of the Customs Service under the Department of the Treasury. Over time, the Coast Guard range of missions and assignments expanded to include defense of the nation, anti-piracy, enforcing quarantines, and, in 1808, enforcing newly enacted laws against the slave trade. For example, the Revenue-Marine operated throughout the fledgling United States for 40 years before officially being tasked with its search and rescue mission in 1831. Although not enacted until 1949, Title 14 Section 89 of the United States Code, codified the Coast Guard’s law enforcement responsibilities and empowers, “….commissioned, warrant, and petty officers may at any time go on board of any vessel subject to the jurisdiction, or to the operation of any law, of the United States, address inquiries to those on board, examine the ship’s documents and papers, and examine, inspect, and search the vessel and use all necessary force to compel compliance.”
The Coast Guard’s law enforcement mission has undergone tremendous transformation and growth over the past 40 years, most markedly since the tragic events of 9/11. This heritage reminds us that we have played a very important role in the protection of our nation and members of our society. Coast Guard law enforcement personnel work with law enforcement community partners at the federal, tribal, state, and local level. Peace Officers Memorial Day, offers one occasion for us to remember those of our own who gave their lives in the line of duty as well as those who carry out this mission each day.
The centerpiece of tribute for fallen law enforcement officers is the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial (NLEOM) located in Washington, D.C.’s Judiciary Square. This low profile off-white stone monument is modeled after other national memorials commemorating those who have served the nation in time of crisis and war. The NLEOM lies in a tree-lined rectangle bounded by the National Law Enforcement Museum, two District of Columbia Court Buildings, and the National Building Museum. The memorial features stone walkways, a reflecting pool at one end, and is readily accessible from the Judiciary Square Metro stop. The NLOEM was authorized in 1984 and dedicated on Oct. 15, 1991. Presently, the names of over 20,000 peace officers who perished in the line of duty are inscribed on the memorial. The 23 names of Coast Guard law enforcement members inscribed on NLEOM at Judiciary Square and their dates of death are listed as follows:
Officer End of Watch
BM3 Travis Raymond Obendorf 18 Dec 2013
BMCS Terrell Edwin Horne, III 02 Dec 2012
ME3 Shaun Michael Lin 13 Oct 2010
PS3 Ronald Gill 25 Mar 2007
BM2 Scott Chisolm 24 Mar 2001
SN Christopher Everett Ferreby 24 Mar 2001
MK2 Jonathan D. Scotchmer 09 Jan 1995
AT1 Matthew Harold Baker 24 Aug 1990
LT Craig Eric Lerner 24 Aug 1990
LT Paul Erik Perlt 24 Aug 1990
LT Duane Elmer Stenbak 24 Aug 1990
BM1 Edgar Allen Culbertson 30 Apr 1967
MoMM1c Victor A. Lamby 07 Aug 1927
BOSN Sidney C. Sanderlin 07 Aug 1927
BOSN (T) Jesse Kennedy Rivenback 20 Feb 1927
BM1c Raymond Henry Clark 20 Feb 1927
MoMM2c Cornelius Shea 20 Feb 1927
BM2c Charles Albert Freeburn 20 Feb 1927
MoMM2c Joseph V. Maxim 20 Feb 1927
MoMM2c Frank Carroll McCausland 20 Feb 1927
Coxswain Leo Stanley Krzyzanowski 20 Feb 1927
SC3c Clarence Alexander 20 Feb 1927
BMC Karl Edwin Gustafson 02 Apr 1925
As a member of the Newport News Police Pipes & Drums, I accompany my band to Washington, D.C., each May to participate in the events of Police Week. Our motto is to “Honor the Fallen” and our mission is to support the men and women of law enforcement through honors and ceremonies. We do this throughout the year representing our local police department at various events such as promotion ceremonies, law enforcement graduations, public service events, and yes, funerals for law enforcement officers and veterans. I hope that in some small way, I can help honor those who have served and sacrificed including the 23 Coast Guard officers who gave the final measure.