At the conclusion of National Police Week on Sunday May 20, Rockland County is playing host to three ceremonies where people can go show their appreciation for those in law enforcement, as well as those who have given their lives serving the country.
The day starts at 9:30 a.m. in the parking lot of the police station on Maple Avenue with the annual Clarkstown Police Department Recognition Ceremony.
“It’s an event we have every year,” said Sgt. Harry Baumann. “We give awards to police officers and civilians for great work during the past year. The chief of police and captains all go, and a lot of politicians come to show their appreciation.”
The department also gives out scholarships to local students.
At 11 a.m. at the Rockland County Courthouse, the Police Memorial Service will commence. Another annual event, the Police Memorial Service honors those who have died in the line of duty, either working in Rockland or local residents who served elsewhere. The keynote speaker will be Joseph A. D'Amico, superintendent of the New York State Police.
Many family members of those being honored are expected to attend the ceremony. All local law enforcement agencies are invited to attend as well, although the Rockland County Sheriff’s Department doesn’t know who will attend until the day of the event.
At 1 p.m., also at the courthouse, a ceremony will be held to unveil a bronze plaque with the names of the four men from Rockland who lost their lives serving in the military in Iraq. Family members of the four men -- Capt. Phillip Esposito, Army Cpl. Manny Lopez, Army Spc. Justin Garcia and Marine Cpl. Steven Vahaviolos -- will be on hand at the ceremony to see the plaque added to the Rockland County War Memorial site. The memorial has the names of Rockland residents who have died while serving since World War I.
“Without being corny, the obvious thing is these four young men gave their lives in theory to protect the rest of us,” said Jerry Donnellan, director of Rockland County Veterans Services. “I realize there are different political views, and you can get comments on both sides of the aisle about the war, but regardless of that, these young men gave their lives for this country.”
Donnellan said the ceremony will be short, as they don’t want to take up too much of people’s time that Sunday. He said there will be plenty of veterans there, as well as the color guard, and County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef will be the main speaker.
“We just want to make sure they’re remembered,” Donnellan said. “We don’t want to make it a political thing with people making long speeches or waving the flag or anything like that. It’s just about remembering these four men.”
At a recent Rockland County Legislature meeting, Legislator Ed Day urged the public to attend the various events on May 20.
“It’s one of the most wonderful coincidences I can think of. As someone who worked in law enforcement and has two sons that served the country, I think that’s the best way I can put it,” Day said. “It really drives home the very accurate comparison that there are conflicts at home, there are conflicts overseas and we have very special people standing in defense of us at both of those places.”