Despite the novel coronavirus, the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office went on with its annual memorial service May 22, with virtual speakers and online streaming for all to see.
Held in conjunction with the Suffolk County Correction Officers Association and the Suffolk County Deputy Sheriffs P.B.A., the ceremony honored the 72 Suffolk correction officers and deputy sheriffs who have died in service since 1887. The ceremony took place on the grounds of the Suffolk County Correctional Facility in Riverside.
Due to regulations on social gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic, no guests were allowed to attend, and officers in attendance wore face coverings.
“This is a solemn occasion, but the month of May is also a time that people throughout America show their heartfelt appreciation for the men and women who proudly put on their uniforms each day, and go out into our communities or behind these cement walls in service to us all,” Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr. said during the memorial service address. “Memorial Day services remind us of our colleagues who have passed on, their sacrifices and oath to serve others, and how we are all connected as one law enforcement family.”
The service, which was streamed on the sheriff’s Facebook page through Facebook Live, included traditions such as the Flag Ceremony, a 21-gun salute, the playing of Taps, and the singing of the National Anthem. The names of the 72 officers who died during service were also read, including Andrew Reister, a Southampton native who died in 2008 after he was choked by a patron while working as a security guard at a bar.
Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini also spoke, virtually, during the service.
“For those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice, we can never, never repay what we owe to them, but we can remember them each and every day and we can honor them through our actions,” he said. “I want to thank law enforcement especially during these unprecedented times. We often call you our heroes, but during this pandemic, you deserve a promotion. You’re our superheroes.”
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone also taped a segment to be shared during the service.
“Even in the midst of this unprecedented event — this global pandemic that we are going through — it is important that we take time out to honor the men and women who have served and sacrificed, and those we have lost,” he said. “This crisis really has demonstrated clearly again the importance of service, particularly the service of men and women of law enforcement who are out there everyday putting themselves at risk, their safety at risk at any moment, to serve all of us and to keep us safe. We are grateful to you.”