The Meaning and Honor of Service
By John J. Smietana, Jr.
It is both an honor and a privilege to be here today. Thank you for allowing me this opportunity. The Border Patrol Museum is a proper memorial, if you will, for all those who have sacrificed. Their names are listed inside, and it stands here every day as a reminder to all of us of what they did. You know, when I first heard that I was invited to speak, I was a little nervous. I was nervous because I didn’t think that I would be able to pick the appropriate words with the appropriate dignity to honor those who have fallen. I asked myself, “What do I do?” I realized that as long as it comes from my heart, as long as the words convey the meaning, then those who have given their lives will appreciate them, and I hope that you do too.
We are here today to honor fallen Border Patrol agents and to honor everyone who has given their life in the service of this country. For us, that means Clarence M. Childress and Robert W. Rosas, Jr. All the watchmen, patrol inspectors, agents, and aircraft pilots. We owe a great deal to them. For those of us in law enforcement, we made a commitment, and I want you to know that law enforcement is an honorable and noble profession.
Stop and think about that. You and all those who have gone before you have volunteered to follow a higher standard with higher degrees of integrity, honesty, and conduct. You have volunteered to protect this nation, its citizens, and those unable to protect themselves. You volunteer every day to run toward danger, to the sound of gunfire, when everyone else runs away from it. You volunteered to subject yourselves to the scrutiny and questions from just about everyone out there. They do not have the knowledge, experience, or understanding of what you do every day. They never have had to make a split-second decision that may mean life or death. So, you are very, very special people. Very special people! As are all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
You know, every day when you go to work you risk injury or death. There are a lot of professions that have that same risk, but you go to work knowing that there are people out there who target you for the uniform that you wear and the ideals that you stand for. Not because of who you are, but because of what you represent. And, that is truly noble, and I thank you. All law enforcement officers, members of government, members of the service, and those who have fallen, on their very first day of employment have one thing in common—they took the oath of office. The oath of office is the cement, the mortar, that binds us to the foundations of our government, to the principals of the Constitution, our founding fathers, and all those who have gone before us and the legacy that they left.