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Vail Daily article: Sheriff James Van Beek: Honoring those who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice

“The Final Inspection,” author unknown: “Step forward now, policeman, you’ve borne your burdens well. Come walk a beat on heaven’s streets, you’ve done your time in hell.” 

The call comes in, the car speeds by, the chase is underway. Going through your mind is, why? Most people simply pull over. Whatever the issue, it becomes exponentially worse, if we must engage in pursuit.

The license information comes in and the car is stolen, thus, no driver data. Who is this person? Why are they running? What danger are they currently placing on the community? How do I mitigate it? Are they armed? 

The brain is mapping out potential scenarios, the heart races, as the body prepares for fight or flight … fight is what we choose every time, without question. Some don’t make it out alive. 

In appreciation of the heroes behind the badge, President John F. Kennedy signed a proclamation in 1962, selecting May 15 as National Peace Officers [Police] Memorial Day. This day and surrounding week, honor all those who have died, or been disabled, in the line of duty.  

Approximately 70,000 men and women in the United States have answered the call to protect and serve throughout the 17,985 law enforcement agencies, which include county sheriff, city, and state police departments, as well as federal agencies. Each one with a specific and unique directive, yet all with the common pledge to protect and serve, with the understanding that at some point, one may be expected to make the ultimate sacrifice. 

All who are in law enforcement swear to a similar oath. The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office pledges the following: “On my honor, I will never betray the United States Constitution, the laws of the State of Colorado, my badge, my integrity, my character, my loyalty to holding myself and others accountable to the law and the community I serve, and the mission of the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office.” 

We pledge to the letter and spirit of the law and all of us understand the depth of that commitment. For many, it is more than a job but truly a calling, as we are willing to lay down our lives in duty. 

Because of this, National Police Week is dear to us. When one of us perishes, we all feel a wave of grief. The loss of a brother or sister is forever etched in our hearts. 

It also honors the families of those who serve. Every day that a law enforcement officer/deputy leaves his or her home, each is aware that it may be their last. Once an officer has fallen, we must remember those who are left behind.

Law enforcement agencies across the valley, regardless of assignment, work together as a team. We would not be able to accomplish what we do without the assistance of one another. Times like this week make me realize how incredibly blessed we are to have a team such as ours. Regardless of uniform, we all dedicate our daily lives to making sure yours is the best possible.

I have never been so honored as to have been elected to lead such a dedicated and honorable group of individuals, committed to the safety and well-being of our community. 

We honor the memory of Eagle County Sheriff’s Office fallen heroes. We are forever grateful for your sacrifice.

- Undersheriff John Fletcher Clark: End of Watch Wednesday, July 12, 1961

- Deputy Oscar W. Meyer: End of Watch Wednesday, November 2, 1937

Thank you, Eagle County!  We will work hard every day, to never let you down. 

James van Beek is the Eagle County sheriff. You can reach him at james.vanbeek@eaglecounty.us.