Barnegat Township Police Make Unity Tour Debut

By ERIC ENGLUND | May 15, 2019
Supplied Photo

Barnegat Township — A contingent of Barnegat Township police officers biked approximately 260 miles to Washington, D.C., for their first participation in the Police Unity Tour, running May 9-12.

The tour was organized in May 1997 by Officer Patrick P. Montuore of the Florham Park Police Department, with the hope of bringing public awareness to officers who died in the line of duty and to honor their sacrifice. What started with 18 riders on a four-day fundraising bicycle ride from Florham Park to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington has since grown into 10 chapters. Nearly 2,500 members nationwide make the trip annually.

“Every officer should do it at least once,” said Barnegat Officer Vincent Damiano, who previously pedaled with a contingent of Stafford Township officers. “It’s a great feeling when you ride through a small town and people applaud you. But then it gets pretty emotional when you get to the memorial, and see someone who lost a spouse, or children who lost a parent.”

The ride raised $2.8 million for the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. Etched on the outdoor memorial are the names of 21,000 officers who died in the line of duty. Capping the event was a candlelight vigil in which the names of officers killed in the line of duty last year were read aloud.

In addition to the 158 officers who died in 2018, the names of 213 officers who died in prior years were added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial this spring. The oldest historical death now engraved on the memorial is that of Chesterfield County (Virginia) Sheriff Benjamin Branch, who was killed on April 29, 1786.

An estimated 30,000 people attended the ceremony in person, while thousands more participated via a live webcast of the ceremony provided by the memorial fund with viewing events across the country.

“The vigil is a very moving experience,” said Damiano. “Many of the family members are present.”

Riding with Damiano were Sgt. Andrew Parsley and patrol officers Anthony Carlo, Tom Henry and Mark Simko. Two support riders were Chris Ebert and Eddie Hayes.

“The support officers provide them with food, water and whatever help they need,” said Ebert.

Damiano said weather was nice until Sunday, “when we rode right into a rainstorm.”

“That rain was affecting the whole East  Coast, so we weren’t going to be able to avoid it,” he said. “But still, what’s most important about the ride is that we are there to be there for the families who have lost loved ones in law enforcement.”

— Eric Englund

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