Honouring the fallen: Attending the 42nd annual National Police and Peace Officers’ Memorial

On September 29, police and peace officers marched their way to Parliament Hill in honour of those who could not.

Each year, the memorial gives officers and representatives from across Canada an opportunity to pay their respects to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the performance of their duties. Speeches were said and prayers were made as the sound of bagpipes and bugles captivated all who attended.

The parade began in true spectacular fashion as over three-thousand uniformed officers marched their way from the Supreme Court of Canada onto Parliament Hill. The rows of uniforms were never-ending, as flagbearers and pipes and drums bands escorted each group toward Parliament.

With every region filing into place, the spectacle died down as emotions of the morning began to take hold of the ceremony. As the sound of the artillery gunfire rang, each officer bowed their heads for a moment of reflection, honouring the list of fallen officers that dates back to the 19th century.

Tragically, with the passing of Older Sister (Correctional Officer) Lesa Zoerb last year, CSC added to that same list of fallen officers for the first time in 14 years. Sunday’s memorial was in dedication of the Zoerb family.

One year ago today, on Oct. 7, 2018, Lesa passed away in a motor vehicle accident while returning from supervising an offender in Maple Creek, Saskatchewan. Lesa spent her entire 20-year career in the public service working at Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge (OOHL) as an Older Sister. Her children, Keara and Russell, and their father, Dave, attended Sunday’s memorial.

A speech commemorating Lesa’s involvement with CSC explained how she was always willing to lend a hand and take any shift at the Healing Lodge. The speech went on to say Lesa always did her job with professionalism, integrity and a smile. Something that all officers, no matter the region, can commend.

Hundreds of CSC officers, along with our brothers and sisters from various correctional departments in the United States, most of whom had never met Lesa, traveled to Ottawa to unite in arms and pay their respects. They may have different jobs, different uniforms and come from different regions, yet every officer in attendance still made time to honour those who have fallen. And that is what made the 42nd annual National Police and Peace Officers Memorial so powerful. As well, Lesa was remembered at a ceremony that took place in Regina that same day, attended by her colleagues from OOHL.

The ceremony also memorialized two customs inspectors: Turner Ingalls and William G. Hughes, who both died in 1927, and John W. Clarkson, a constable and deputy sheriff who died in 1905.

With every song sung, every speech delivered and every wreath laid at the memorial service, the respect and gratitude amongst police and peace officers, past or present, remains extraordinary.

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