As a retired auxiliary police officer and a designer of public safety training facilities, it is incredibly important to me to find ways to give back to my local and national law enforcement community. Public safety personnel play a critical role in the security and well-being of our towns and cities, and I see honoring their contributions as a top priority.
With this in mind, I frequently attend Peace Officers Memorial Day events in Washington, DC, held annually on May 15th, to honor fallen officers and recognize the significance of law enforcement in protecting our society. Through these events, I became familiar with Law Enforcement United, an organization founded in 2009 with the mission to ‘honor the service and sacrifice of all law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty and remember the survivors left behind.’ Inspired by their commitment, I seized the opportunity to play a supporting role in LEU’s annual Road to Hope bicycle ride – a significant annual event during which bicyclists from across the East Coast journey from their home chapter locations to Washington, DC, for Peace Officers Memorial Day and other National Police Week events.
As a Hotel Transportation Team Support member for Team Portsmouth, VA, I had the opportunity to witness the physical and emotional strength of each cyclist as they rode many hard miles, through both rain and shine, in honor of lost loved ones. The Virginian Pilot published an article sharing one Norfolk widow’s story, which truly paints the picture of the transformative power the Road to Hope has for survivors and families. My role was to serve the more than 430 riders from Virginia as part of the substantial, behind-the-scenes logistical effort. From food, to lodging, to parade permits, the logistics that make this ride possible are extensive and complex.
On registration day, I first experienced what it means to coordinate nearly 1,000 individuals ranging from riders to support team members, attending both support team and general safety meetings. The ride itself began the next morning, with the hotel support team checking in hundreds of riders and pieces of luggage and preparing for departure, and lasted three days, with overnight stays in Richmond and Stafford County before arriving in DC.
The Hotel Transportation Team Support color-coded luggage with matching wristbands for riders, identifying which of three hotels they would stay in during our Richmond stop, and which of the two hotels they would call home in Stafford County. Each day, we drove ahead to the hotels to unload and securely store luggage and work with hotel staff through the lengthy process of assigning rooms, creating keys, and organizing all assignments and materials in advance of the riders’ arrival.
When the riders walk into the hotel, they are exhausted – drained from the emotional as well as physical aspects of the ride. It’s generally not an experience that catches people at their best, but to a large extent, that’s the point of the Road to Hope. It is a road – a journey – for the grieving process, for remembering, and for ultimately honoring those lost and hopefully finding a sense of peace and purpose. To know my role contributed in some way to the survivors’ ability to participate in this ride was deeply touching.
Arrival day in DC is another stunning experience, and one that similarly requires extensive logistical planning, as schedule and timing are critical and a permit is needed for every aspect of our movement through the city. When you consider that tens of thousands of people converge in DC during National Police Week, which includes Peace Officers Memorial Day on May 15th, it makes for an emotional display of support for and remembrance of our law enforcement officers, including a candlelight vigil that often spans four city blocks.
While serving as a volunteer in the LEU ride was a hectic experience filled with busy days, it was also immensely fulfilling and eye-opening. Not knowing what to expect, I was blown away by the massive, well-coordinated effort to put on this event, and I feel grateful for having had the opportunity to experience this journey alongside the riders. As a principal at Clark Nexsen, I’m proud that our Foundation elected to support LEU and look forward to continuing my volunteer participation in the Road to Hope.
To learn more about Law Enforcement United and the groups supported by their efforts, please visit https://www.leunited.org/.
Dan Walker, AIA, DBIA is a principal and key leader in our Public Safety practice with more than 40 years of experience. As a retired lieutenant from the Portsmouth Auxiliary Police Unit, he believes public service has immeasurable value and seeks to give back whenever possible. To learn more about LEU, our Public Safety practice, or to speak with Dan, please call 757.455.5800 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Top and bottom images courtesy of Law Enforcement United.