JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii --
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington D.C. is the nation’s monument to peace officers who have died in the line of duty—and two U.S. Air Force Airmen from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska were honored during the 35th Annual Candlelight Vigil, May 13.
Tech. Sgt. Jason L. Norton and Staff Sgt. Brian McElroy were killed Jan. 22, 2006, when their vehicle struck an improvised explosive device in the vicinity of Taji, Iraq. Both were posthumously awarded Bronze Star Medals and Purple Hearts for their actions.
“It is important to honor their memories and celebrate the achievements they made to the defense of our nation,” said Brig. Gen. Thomas Sherman, director of Security Forces, in an article written by Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs office. “National Police Week in general is a time to reflect on those we lost, as well as a time to come together as law enforcement professionals within the Security Forces career field.”
The process for submitting and approving a fallen officer to have their names etched onto the memorial can take some time; for Norton and McElroy, it took almost two years. According to their website on the approval of military police officers into the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, “military police officers will be included if, at the time of their death, they were experiencing similar hazards and performing similar duties as those normally experienced and performed by non-military law enforcement personnel.”
“The approval process was very tedious being that the application is centered around civilian law enforcement encounters,” said Tech. Sgt. Atkins Riddick, 673rd Security Forces Squadron package coordinator on behalf of Norton and McElroy. “It was a very detailed process as well, needing to request information from Headquarters Air Force from more than 15 years ago. But I had a wonderful team of people to help me get through this process and get our guys recognized. Getting word that they were accepted meant the world. I was extremely happy for the families; they really deserved this.”
After a long process of gathering the information, routing, and submitting the two fallen Airmen, they were finally approved to be added to the memorial. Their names were then engraved on the memorial and read at the 35th Annual Candlelight Vigil during National Police Week.
According to its website, NPW “offers honor, remembrance, and peer support, while allowing law enforcement, survivors, and citizens to gather and pay homage to those who gave their lives in the line of duty.”
“As an Airman, I had the pleasure of working with both Norton and McElroy,” said Riddick. “I had never seen either of them off duty, but at work they were two of the most professional, respectable people you could ever meet. Being told of their passing during guard mount is something I remember very vividly. I’m just proud to say I was able to meet and work with two genuine American heroes!”
Before the candlelight vigil, the two Airmen—along with a third, Senior Airman Jason Nathan—were given a special ceremony at the Pentagon where they were honored for their service and sacrifice.
“As SF members, we must be willing, ready, and capable to do what’s necessary to protect our resources and people,” said Riddick. “That’s what Tech. Sgt. Norton and Staff Sgt. McElroy did. They gave the ultimate sacrifice, and we are all extremely proud of them. I couldn’t think of anyone else better than them to represent what is now the 673rd SFS. Hopefully going forward, when you think of JBER, these are some of the first names that come to your mind.”