Honoring a hero

There’s a deep connection between the men and women of law enforcement – a camaraderie, a bond that is woven into the very fabric of their professional and sometimes personal lives.

Every day, these officers put themselves in harm’s way in an effort to protect the communities they serve. They’ve witnessed the inhumanity of society, the cruel and unforgiving intentions of others, knowing full well that at any given moment, they may make the ultimate sacrifice.

And when tragedy occurs, as seen in recent police officer shootings throughout the country, the men and women in blue are a unified force, standing shoulder to shoulder in support of those who gave their lives.

That bond was on display in mid-May when Marshalltown Police Lt. Ryan Goecke spoke at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial (NLEOM) in Washington, D.C.

Goecke was there to honor fellow MPD Officer Glen R. Crouse, who died in 1954, and is listed as the only member of the MPD to be killed while in the line of duty.

After countless hours of research, it had been Goecke’s charge over the past few years to secure a place for Crouse’s name to be recognized at the memorial.

“It was a really incredible experience,” said Goecke, a nearly 30-year veteran of the MPD.

After verifying the information about Crouse, 38, who was killed while in pursuit of a suspected drunk driver, Goecke submitted Crouse’s name for inclusion to the NLEOM, receiving approval in February.

Having attended the 2014 ceremony where names of those officers who died in the line of duty are read out loud, Goecke asked if he could be considered as a name reader during this year’s event.

“When I filled out the paperwork to submit Crouse’s name last December, and since I had been to this ceremony last year for the very first time, I had also asked ‘How do I become a name reader?'”

Just days prior to his departure for Washington, Goecke received word he had been picked to read the names, including Crouse’s as well as three other Iowa officers who had died while in the line of duty.

“I was pretty excited that I got the opportunity,” he said. “It was kind of neat to see it all the way through, from the research, the application .. and at the very end, to finalize it.”

Sitting on the stage as other names were read, as well as when he was reading the names he was provided, the emotions were overwhelming, Goecke admits.

“It’s a very humbling experience, and as you’re sitting there … I was right near the family members, it’s almost … you could tell who the family members were and you saw their reactions.

“You just can’t imagine what they’re going through.”

Two hundred and seventy-three names were read during this year’s ceremony, including Officer Crouse’s.

“This time, knowing that one of ours was being added, well I feel like I know him. I know his family … you establish a connection. I really feel like I’ve gotten to know him so much more,” Goecke said, choking back the emotions. “I can tell you it still tugs at you, obviously.”

Crouse’s inclusion into the NLEOM has been both rewarding and heart wrenching for Goecke, especially in light of recent developments, including the deaths of officers in Omaha, Mississippi, New York City and elsewhere.

“It really puts things in a different perspective,” said Goecke, who said law enforcement professionals know the risks, but added that “You can’t let it get to you too much.

“You know it could happen anywhere, anytime. I mean, I’ve made 100,000 traffic stops, gone up to doors many times, arrested people with no problems, but (recent developments) reminds you that it can happen.”

And Crouse, whose death 61 years ago has finally received this overdue recognition, brings everything full circle for Goecke.

“You know I always saw that Badge #55 on our old letterhead, and I finally got to do the research on it and then to be part of the ceremony … Although I didn’t know (Crouse), I’ve talked with family members, read about him, and at least now I have that connection … I’m just so happy to have been a part of it. It has been very fulfilling.”