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Don Guilfoil: Retired Officer Honors Those Killed in the Line of Duty

Moved by a rash of police officer deaths in the 70's, Guilfoil worked to create D.C monument honoring fallen officers.

In 1960, Don Guilfoil, a Korean war vet who served on the USS Badger, settled in Kings Park where he and his wife, Betty, would raise their five sons. Guilfoil had worked as a milkman for years and decided to take the Suffolk County Police Department test in order to serve others and secure a good future for his fast-growing family. Guilfoil passed the test and joined the force in 1963. His last 11 years were spent in the Arson Squad. He retired from the force on November 30, 1987.

Like many police officers, Guilfoil understood the risk of the job. However, in the 1970's, he was moved by the rise of officers killed in the line of duty.

"It seemed as though they were killing cops left and right.The Black Panthers killed two officers in a city housing project.  Another two officers were shot down and then their killers took their own guns from their holsters and shot them again. I wanted to do something so that these heroes wouldn't be forgotten."

Those years were considered the deadliest decade for law enforcement officers. The 1970's saw 2,231 law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty according to Sheild 370, a Suffolk County Police Department publication.

Guilfoil brought his idea of a national memorial to all fallen law enforcement officers to the Suffolk County Policemen's Benevolent Association. The PBA in turn got the support of then Congressman James Grover.  However, when Grover lost his reelection bid, there was fear that the project would be dropped.  However,  Bronx Congressman Mario Biaggi, himself a former cop, stepped in and pushed legislation forward.  

After years of lobbying, Guilfoil's dream became a reality. On October 5, 1991, the National Law Enforcement Memorial was deidicated and opened to the public.  The nation's mounument to law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty features two 304 foot-long, blue gray curving walls.  Etched on these walls are the names of over 20,000 men and women who have been killed in the line of duty throughout the United States. Sadly, new names are added to the walls as the number of heroes grows.

Guilfoil was not content with the monument, however.  He was one of the original officers who pushed for the establishment of a local memorial fund for fallen officers.  He and fellow officers were instrumental in a program in which .50 cents of each active officer's paycheck was donated to a family fund for fallen officers' loved ones. Guilfoil also helped convince former County Executive Gaffney to fly the National Law Enforcement flag at Police Headquarters and local precincts.

George H.W. Bush, president when the memorial was dedicated in 1991 spoke of the bravery of those killed in the line of duty.

“They gave much and asked little. They deserve our remembrance. Here in America’s capital for as long as these walls stand, they will be remembered, not for the way they died, but for how they lived.”

Greg Kelly July 12, 2011 at 05:36 PM
Thank you for the article. I would encourage anyone who visits Washington DC area to take the time to visit the memorial. Similar to the Vietnam Memorial, the names of the slain officers are engraved on the wall. You can look up the officers names (including all officers killed on 9/11) and use a pencil to make a copy of each name.

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