Major Executive Speeches

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Photograph of John S. Pistole

John S. Pistole
Deputy Director
Federal Bureau of Investigation

Special Agent Memorial Service
FBI Headquarters, Washington, D.C.

May 16, 2007

Thank you, Mike. Thanks also to Craig Floyd for joining us today and for the work you do every day to ensure that the sacrifices of law enforcement officers are never forgotten.

I especially want to thank the families who are here today. We treasured these agents as friends and colleagues, but they were much more than that to you. They were your sons and daughters, your brothers and sisters. They were your husbands and wives, your fathers and mothers, your friends, fiancé, and loved ones.

No matter how much we mourn them, it is you who feel their loss most deeply. We hope you can take some comfort in knowing that you are—and always will be—part of the FBI family.

When one of our agents is killed—whether in the field or during training—we first struggle to make sense of what happened. We immediately go into action mode. We go to the scene, we investigate the details, we interview witnesses, and we make our reports.

Only with time are we able to reflect on the deeper meaning of our colleagues' deaths and what their lives mean to their families, to the Bureau, and to the country. With each reading of their names, we come to understand more fully the mark they have left on all of us.

The men and women we honor today came from all walks of life. Some were quiet; some were outgoing. Some had families; some did not. Some were veteran agents; some had been on the job just a short time.

They came from different places, lived in different times, and died under different circumstances. Yet there was much they shared.

They were bound by a common belief in justice. They all chose law enforcement as a profession, because they believed in our laws, and in defending our freedom. For them, law enforcement was more than a profession—it was a calling.

They were bound by a common devotion to service. Service to our children, service to our communities, service to our country. Service at all costs.

More than anything else, they were bound by a common characteristic, and that is heroism.

Heroism is something we hear a lot about these days. Today, everyone from movie stars to ball players has been described as a hero. But the agents we honor today were heroes in the truest sense of the word.

When we think of heroism, we often picture feats of tremendous courage in the face of tremendous danger. We think of actions that run directly counter to our human instinct of self-preservation. And many of the agents we honor today displayed exactly that kind of valor.

Some were killed while attempting to arrest dangerous bank robbers. Some were killed while closing in on wanted fugitives. Some were killed in challenging training exercises.

Each of them lived out the unspoken covenant that all special agents make when they swear an oath to serve and protect. Their instinct was to put the safety of others before their own. Their actions can most certainly be called heroic.

But there is another kind of heroism—the quiet, everyday heroism each and every one of these agents displayed, simply by picking up their badges and going to work every day. Each of them understood there was a chance they might not make it home that night. That is heroism.

Each of them accepted that risk, so that others would not have to. That is heroism.

Each of them answered the call to duty, because they knew it was the right thing to do. That is heroism.

The British statesman Benjamin Disraeli once said, “The legacy of heroes is the memory of a great name and the inheritance of a great example.”

The names we just heard are much more than just names to us, because we have inherited a great example from each one of them. An example of courage; an example of sacrifice; an example of valor.

Carved on the east wall of the National Law Enforcement Memorial, the memorial over which Craig Floyd is such a faithful steward, is a simple inscription: “IN VALOR THERE IS HOPE.”

Today, we draw more than just inspiration from the example of valor and heroism we have inherited. We also draw hope: hope that the ideals for which they lived and died will endure long after we are gone, hope that the justice they believed in will always prevail over lawlessness, hope that the good they embodied will ultimately triumph over evil.

We are grateful to have inherited the legacy and the example of these heroes. We are privileged that they chose to serve the FBI and the American people. And we are honored to follow in their footsteps.

God bless you.



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