Ceremony for fallen police officers honors service and sacrifice
CONCORD - Michael Maloney's sister, Ralph Miller's dad, Edward Graziano's grandson and Leslie Lord's sister came together Friday to help remember their departed relatives: law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.
Several hundred people attended the 21st annual New Hampshire Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Ceremony in the shadow of the State House to honor 44 fallen officers.
"It just shows you that everybody is here to show their support and love and never forget what our men and women (in blue) do every day," Kathleen Lahey, sister of slain Greenland Police Chief Michael Maloney, said after the ceremony.
Chief Maloney was the most recent name added to a granite memorial next to the Legislative Office Building after he was fatally shot in a drug raid in April 2012.
Gov. Maggie Hassan thanked the law enforcement community for its selfless service.
"It is only once a year that we gather formally at this monument to show our gratitude to those who have died, so the rest of us may live safely," Hassan said. "But just as law enforcement is always on duty protecting us, the memory of those honored at this memorial is always with us, serving as a beacon of the strength and resiliency that defines the Granite State."
More than three-dozen uniformed officers paid tribute on motorcycle while dozens more either marched in or witnessed the hour-plus ceremony.
"Public safety is the most important task of any government. Our people, our families and our communities cannot thrive if we live in fear," the governor said.
Linda Lord's brother, State Police Trooper Leslie Lord, was killed in August 1997, one of two state troopers slain by Carl Drega of Columbia. Drega also murdered a district court judge and a newspaper editor in Colebrook.
"Over time, you get acceptance of what happened to them," Linda Lord said before the event. "It still hurts."
The Maine woman has reached out to other Granite State law enforcement families dealing with their grief, telling them: "The hurt is real, the pain is real and you have to deal with it however it's best for you. You will smile again and you will laugh again. Memories are precious and they're always with you."
She wishes that the public better understood the profession's perils.
"It's a shame people are not aware of what their daily activities expose them to, and they do it with great pride and professionalism," Lord said.
In October 1976, Manchester Police Officer Ralph Miller was fatally shot when responding to a noise complaint.
Today, his dad, Arthur Miller, said the annual ceremony remembering his son and the others "means a great deal" to him.
"It's important to support the local police in your town," the Allenstown resident said.
The slain officer's brother, David Miller, wore a button pinned on his shirt with the officer's photo and the inscription "R.W. Miller 1976."
The ceremony "kind of helps out the hurt, but the hurt's always there," the younger Miller said afterward.
Attorney General Joseph Foster read the roll call of names of the fallen officers, each one followed by a family member or police officer pinning a red carnation on to a flower arrangement.
Family members ranged from parents using canes to boys in their best suits.
Eddie Graziano stepped forward after hearing the name of his grandfather, Nashua Police Officer Edward Graziano. The teenager never knew his grandfather, who died in 1964 when a vehicle struck his police motorcycle on Route 3 in Nashua.
Eddie also sang at the event as a member of the Woodbury Middle School choir from Salem.
"Today meant a lot of things. Honoring my grandfather and being here for him," the seventh-grader said after the event. "Having my chorus up here means a lot to me."
Chief Maloney's daughter, Serena, said the emotions surrounding the loss of her dad remain intense more than a year later.
"You have your days: your good ones, your bad ones," she said. "Always on your mind, always in your heart."