National Police Week 2021, May 9 – May 15, provided programs to keep officers safe while honoring those who have died in the line of duty.
Our Tragedy Response Program facilitates community giving to support officers )(and their families) who killed or critically injured in the line of duty in South Carolina. Since 2015, we have facilitated over $729,000 raised. We do not keep any of the money raised, and 100% is donated to the officers and their families.
Kassy Alia Ray gave the following speech to honor and remember the fallen officers in York County:
Thank you for the warm welcome and the honor of speaking here today. National Police Officers Memorial Day, and the preceding National Police Week, are an important time to remember those who gave their lives in service to their communities.
This fall will mark six years since my husband, Greg, gave his life protecting our community. I remember that first National Police Week in DC being amazing and also overwhelming. In the years since the week has taken on new and increasingly important feelings as I cherish the opportunity to honor Greg alongside the many other heroes who came before him and who have followed after.
Heroes like Detective Mike Doty.
I’ll never forget that feeling of sheer horror and heartbreak as I learned about the tragedy that happened on January 16, 2018. We were honored to offer our support through our tragedy response program which, at the time, raised money for the families of officers killed in the line of duty. I’ll always remember that first conversation with Sheriff Kevin Tolson. Even in the midst of the chaos and his grief, he was thinking about others. “Yes, we would welcome your support,” he shared. “But I want the support to be for all of the officers who were shot.”
In the time that followed, I would have the privilege of getting to know Kevin, Andy, Buddy, Randy, and Kyle more deeply. They would transform from the headshots I saw in the hours following the tragedy to amazing individuals, full of courage, compassion, and hearts made for service. I would meet their families – their amazing wives and partners, adorable dogs, and sweet kids. I would get to learn about Randy’s love for his grandbabies and to this day Buddy’s smile warms my heart just by thinking about it.
I would also learn about Mike – Mike the detective, who was passionate about addressing substance use and building youth leaders, and also Mike the man, who was a loving uncle, brother, son, and friend.
I would come to see that the reaction Kevin had in those hours to broaden the response to all four was not only a symbol of his love for his officers, but was also the exact thing that Mike would have wanted.
This leads me to the main point. As you hear the names on the roll call today, please acknowledge that behind every name is a rich story. Yes, these individuals are heroes because of how they died. But, even more importantly, they are heroes because of how they lived.
As I shared earlier, this fall marks six years since we lost Greg. And do you want to know the number one memory that pops into my head when I think about him?
It was a normal weekday. Greg was on Sal duty while I taught a college course at USC. He must not have heard me when I walked through the door because, there he was, back to the door, Sal in the bouncy chair, and Greg was shaking his booty dancing to some song singing away to that sweet baby. And my heart melted.
Greg only had six months with Sal, but in that time he shined so bright. I loved the way he loved our son. And, thanks to my Barbara Walters style interview of Greg while we were at the hospital waiting to be born, Sal gets to see glimpse of that love. Just recently Sal said to me, “I don’t know what Daddy Greg sounds like.” So, I pulled out the videos and Sal’s smile was so bright it could have lit up the darkest night. He got to hear his dad say over and over “I love you, Sal.”
Sal is six now. He is fiery and imaginative and a great artist. I love all that he is, but I love his heart the most. His teacher once shared a story. Sal was in preschool at the time and the kids were just learning to read their names. One of the exciting things was each week, they would pick a name out of a basket and the name selected was the student of the week. It came down to the final two weeks with just Sal and one another student, a young girl, were left. The teacher pulled the name out of the basket and it was Sal’s name. She said she was so confused, because often, the child selected would recognize their name and get so excited. However, Sal sat there with very little reaction. Suddenly, he turned around, reached out to the little girl who was not picked and said, “It’s ok, Eni. That means its your turn next week.”
There is something that is uniquely Sal, which I recognize. And, also, I very much believe there is something within Sal that comes from his dad. I see it in his interests – he loves movies and drawing just like his dad – but mostly, I see it in his heart. Love like he received from his dad doesn’t just go away – it grows.
I know, because that same love continues to grow in me. It is only because of Greg that I am strong enough to survive a life without him.
While Greg’s impact on Sal and I was enormous, we are certainly not the only ones who were transformed by his life. It has been almost six years since he died, and you want to know something? I continue to hear new stories from complete strangers about how Greg impacted their lives to this day.
Greg never talked about those stories with me. In fact, I would tease him because I would ask him how his day went and he was say, “Oh nothing really happened.” But then, I would hear him talk with his friends and he was get so animated telling him about this chase or that fight and I’m sure y’all can relate.
I get why that happened – I believe he thought he was protecting me. But, also, I know he was extremely humble. I don’t think he knew what an impact he was making.
That leads me to my second message today – to those of you in service, I know it is a very difficult time to be in law enforcement. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of you have considered leaving the profession. And, if you are ready to leave, I understand and support you. However, please don’t think for one second that you aren’t changing lives. You may not hear it often, and you should – you should hear it every day – but you are making an impact. Each time you show love and kindness to someone, each time you treat someone with dignity and respect and you go above and beyond to care for them in big and small ways – you are changing their lives and are leaving them with moments they will never forget.
So, as we read over the roll call, let us listen to each name. Let us remember that each name represents a hero, yes, but more than that, a person who was loved and who loved others so much so that they were living to give their lives for that love. Let us be inspired by their legacies to continue forward into a new day with love and a renewed calling to serve others.
Thank you for your service and thank you for welcoming me here today.
Read more media coverage from the event: