Exciting things are happening in our agency! We recently dedicated the new Academy facility and a few weeks later unveiled the bronze trooper statue that sits at the focal point of our compound. It was an amazing way to kick off Police Memorial Week and I wanted to share my remarks with those who were unable to attend.
Today is the day where two journeys converge….
The first journey began in 1948 when our agency was created. It has been a journey of hardships and triumphs. A journey that forged the agency you see today. An agency whose cornerstone beliefs are honor…integrity…service…sacrifice…and humility. These qualities that are timeless and never go out of style. This journey continues as we constantly renew and forge strong partnerships within the communities we serve. This journey never ends….
The second journey began just ten short months ago. It began with a discussion…that turned into a dream…that today turns into a reality. It was a dream of having a special place…a place that symbolizes all that we hold sacred. A special place that speaks to WHO and WHAT the Kentucky State Police is all about. A special place that speaks loudly to the oath of office that we pledge our allegiance and our lives to.
This special place would have to be larger than life to pay homage to those men who donated their lives to protect us. It would have to embody the commitment and sacrifice of each individual who has worn our uniform…..and those who will wear it in the future.
This second journey of fundraising for this incredible piece of sculpture is nearing an end. I’m pleased to announce today that we are very close to our fundraising goal of $100K! A glimpse at our fundraising endeavors is an amazing story in itself.
It all began with a rim to rim trek across the Grand Canyon by me, LTC. Jack Miniard and his brother in law, Jamie Ragg. It was intended as an awareness effort to kick start our campaign for this project. We were amazed at the outpouring of media coverage and financial support that it garnered. Rarely have I had a prouder moment in my career than when we finished our trip and unfurled the Kentucky State Police flag on the South Rim summit, all the while carrying the photos of our fallen heroes with us.
Our plea to the public for a $1.00 dollar donation turned into much more as we raised over $15 thousand dollars as a result of this trip. The community support for this project has been overwhelming. From one thousand dollar donors to the little elderly woman from Eastern Kentucky who sent a crumpled dollar bill with a note that read…”I don’t have much but I’m glad that I can help. God bless you all for what you do.”
The people who make up the Kentucky State Police have been fully committed and engaged in this project. Their innovation and determination has taken many shapes and forms including a Bunco party, a pancake breakfast at an Applebee’s restaurant, a leadership conference and luncheon, a basketball tournament, T-shirt sales and the raffling of an incredible customized Harley-Davidson motorcycle….and the list goes on.
Our efforts would have been much more difficult and challenging with out the assistance of the Kentucky State Police Professional Association and the Post #5 Citizens Police Academy.
Last but certainly not least is the overwhelming support received from our corporate partners:
• Commonwealth Credit Union
• Delta Dental of Kentucky
• Equestrian Events, Inc.
• The Keeneland Association, Inc.
• Man O’War Harley Davidson of Lexington
The generosity of these businesses has been the capstone of our fundraising efforts. But just as importantly, they are a visible reinforcement of the strong bonds of support that we have throughout our state. We are eternally grateful and forever in your debt. All of the support we have received has served as a strong reminder of just how deeply entrenched we are in this Commonwealth that we have sworn to protect.
You may notice some young trees that are planted on the Academy grounds. Each cadet class plants a tree before they graduate. I tell them that each tree represents the deep root system that we have in all 120 Kentucky counties. Most people only see and appreciate the shade and abundance above ground. The secret to a healthy tree is the deep, penetrating root system it possesses that we never see. It provides us stabilization during storms and comfort during uncomfortable times.
Our role…and our chosen path are no different. We are expected to be a source of protection and comfort for people who desperately need protecting.
There are many stories behind this statue, some of which may be lost to history. But I wanted to share a few with you today:
The first story is about the incredible artist behind this piece, Mr. Benjamin Victor. As you will see in a few minutes, his work is extraordinary. His attention to detail is amazing. The process involved dozens of phone calls, e-mails and nearly 200 photographs that were sent to him along with a full KSP uniform during the creation of this masterpiece. He is a humble craftsman whose workmanship is unparalleled. Benjamin, thank you for your patience, indulgence, and painstaking detail that you put into every square inch of this statue.
The second story occurred in April 1972, when Trooper James McNeely, accompanied by Officer Roy Childs navigated a boat onto the Kentucky River on an attempted rescue mission that ended in disaster. Shortly after putting in, the boat capsized drowning both men. Officer Childs’ body was recovered nearly three weeks later near Tell City, Indiana. The body of Trooper James McNeely was never located.
During the formative stages of the statue, we received an e-mail from one of our Sergeants at the Hazard Post. He had discussed the project with several troopers in his squad and they were wondering if the statue could possibly be made to resemble Trooper McNeely, stating that he was the only trooper we had never brought home. The idea resonated with everyone involved with the project and we quickly contacted Mr. Victor who expertly made the resemblance a reality.
If you notice, the trooper is walking away from the academy…..into the world to protect and serve. His journey begins and ends at the thin gray strip of concrete that you see behind him. Symbolic of the quote from Commissioner Ted Bassett when he told the Legislature in the 1960’s that the Kentucky State Police are the thin gray line between law and lawlessness in many parts of our state.
The last story that I’d like to share involves a Kentucky State Police challenge coin that is welded inside the chest cavity of the sculpture. It is emblazoned with our core values and sits near where a trooper’s heart would be. You can’t see it….but it’s there. Within the Kentucky State Police we often refer to “the heart of a trooper.” It is easily understood amongst our ranks. Heart is always doing the right thing for the right reason….even at the cost of personal pain.
Heart can’t be created….it can be made bigger and stronger but it can’t be manufactured….you either have it or you don’t….
Heart is being there until the job is finished…..
Heart says, “If you call me I will come and help you, regardless of your color, your religion, your social status or your poverty level.
Heart says, “I will lay down my life for you if necessary, even though I don’t even know your name.”
….That’s what this statue means to us…….