A child clarifies meaning of Memorial Day

Letters

May 23, 1999

On the morning of May 15, I got up at 6 a.m. to attend to a task for which I had volunteered. Earlier that week, the sheriff had asked at a staff meeting for a volunteer to put the flags at the courthouse at half-staff in observance of Law Enforcement Memorial Day.

Not overly enthused about getting up at the early hour required to fulfill that task, but aware that no one else in the room lived as close to the building, I volunteered.

I threw on some clothes and quietly made my way out of the bedroom. I was starting down the stairs when my 8-year-old daughter, who I thought would still be asleep, called through the open door of her bedroom and asked where I was going.

I walked into her room and sat on the edge of the bed and told her that I was going to lower the flags at the courthouse to honor the law enforcement officers who had been killed in the line of duty.

"Were any of them your friends?" she asked with a hint of sadness mixed with curiosity.

At that moment, the meaning of my "chore" hit home.

"Yes," I told her, "I knew some of them." She looked up at me with genuine concern in her eyes and said simply, "I'm sorry." I kissed her and went out of the room and out to the car.

On the way to the courthouse, I remembered three of my fallen friends.

Officer Chuck Huckeba, with whom I had worked in both the Police Department and in the National Guard, had been killed by a sniper in a residential area during a barricade call in Baltimore County shortly after he left the Howard County Police Department in search of "more excitement."

Cpl. Ted Wolf of the Maryland State Police was another friend. He and I worked the same area of the county for a few years. We responded to many of the same calls and backed each other up on traffic stops and other times. Two men killed him while he was writing a traffic citation on Interstate 95.

Officer Ira Weiner and I knew each other before he joined Baltimore City's finest. He had been a night clerk at a Ramada Inn, where I had worked off-duty security. He was applying to several agencies in hopes of getting a job as soon as possible.

He really wanted Baltimore City because he thought it would be more exciting than other departments. Without backup, he arrived on the scene of a husband-wife domestic dispute that had worked its way out onto the street. As he separated the disputants, the husband fought and was able to pull Ira's weapon from his holster. Ira pleaded for his life but was shot in the face as his sergeant pulled up on the scene.

All three were great guys with families and friends. All three willingly went toward the sound of gunfire when other people, with other jobs, would run in another direction.

And all three have their names engraved on the wall with thousands of others who have been killed simply doing their job.

The short drive to the courthouse took on a whole new meaning thanks to my daughter who reminded me of why I was doing what I was doing. Days like May 15 are called "memorial" days for a reason. On these, we are supposed to reflect on the deeds of people who did their jobs at the cost of their own lives. The number, unfortunately, will continue to grow.

I now feel that instead of performing the task of lowering the flags that morning, I had the privilege of honoring my friends, my brothers and sisters in uniform.

A. Kemp Freund, Ellicott City

The writer is a deputy in the Howard County Sheriff's Office.

Relay's withdrawal is bad for Heritage plan

Relay's withdrawal from an active Patapsco Heritage planning option becomes sad testimony of how things are going south. The appeal of a resident educator and advocate for area children pointed out the benefits of cultural heritage programs and environmental literacy projects.

Post-industrial Pittsburgh, for example, a certified National Heritage Area, is aided by federal grants to preserve and interpret historical and environmental resources within the designated region.

During the past century, Relay witnessed inspiring marvels: Transportation: 1827 B&O railroad.

Engineering: the 1835 world-renowned curved Thomas Viaduct ("that couldn't be built") and that still serves Washington rail today.

Communication: 1844 field laboratory for the world's first (Morse) commercial telegraph.

Gabriele Hourticolon Relay `Big, bad' government is us

What with his premature departure from the Howard County Board of Appeals, Donald B. W. Messenger ("Feds' dictates mar public education," letter, May 9) seems to have plenty of time to write letters to the editor slinging arrows at his favorite targets: President Clinton and the big, bad federal government.

Yes, there is violence in society and not all of our public schools may be as good as some might like. But the responsibility for making improvements in society and in our public schools is ours. And government, at all levels (including the federal), is us.

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