I was recently blessed with what clearly is the greatest honor in my 31 years in this business.
I was asked to serve as the Master of Ceremonies of the Miami-Dade Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Ceremony, a privilege bestowed upon my colleague, former Local 10 colleague anchor, Dwight Lauderdale, who generously gave his time and talent for the past 24 years.
The annual service - of which this is the 31st - is to honor our fallen police officers -- the courageous men and women whose call to service has ended, but whose sacrifice will never be forgotten.
It wasn't long before I suddenly felt that 'connection.' It was during the 'Roll Call of Honor,' the reading of the names of the 137 fallen officers. It was at that point I realized I knew some of them personally, and many whose deaths I covered as a reporter.
But it was something else that really pulled at my heartstrings and made me realize just how precious life really is -- the heart-wrenching speeches by a handful of survivors, none more moving than that of 12-year-old Alyssa Sohomano, who lost her dad, Jose, nearly 5 years ago. Of the 4,000 in attendance, there were few dry eyes.
The evening was also a reminder to all of the officers present of the ultimate sacrifice, that were it not for the grace of God, it could be them.
It takes a lot of guts and courage to do their job. And it takes a special kind of person. We ask them to be prepared 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, to assume a role and face danger. Truth is, they are walking around with a bullseye on their back.
It is truly unfortunate that good men and women must die in order to preserve order. They are sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives and grandparents.
Then one day, they are gone ... taken away from all who loved them by someone very cruel -- someone who didn't have the courage to face up to his or her wrongdoings -- or taken by an irreversible circumstance.
They died protecting and serving the citizens and non-citizens of this community.
They died at the hands of repeat offenders, parolees, drunks, drug addicts, political and religious radicals, the insane. The list is endless.
They died helping people - people like you and me - fix a flat.
They died responding to a traffic accident or domestic dispute.
They died at the hands of a cold blooded killer.
They died doing what they were called on to do, regardless of the circumstances.
You, their families, friends and colleagues, have our deepest sympathies.
While many see athletes or musicians or government leaders as heroes, it is my opinion they are but role models - at best. It is our military - and those who put on the uniform and badge, those who give us the opportunity to live freely and protect our lives and property, who are the real heroes.
I, for one, am indebted to them. It is our duty to let them know what they did - mattered.
Their commitment to their loved ones - and all of the other officers who have given their lives for the love of their community - is to never forget them. They will live in our hearts for all eternity.
It is time once again for us to take pause and remember the police officers who were killed in the line of duty.
Be grateful for our police officers.