NYS Department of Corrections and Community Supervision 

Department of Corrections and Community Supervision

Remarks by Commissioner Brian Fischer
Memorial Service & Medals Ceremony
DOCS Training Academy
June 5, 2008

Let me begin by thanking everyone for attending this afternoon. Our presence signifies our understanding of and commitment to one another, and to those we call our brothers and sisters.

A hero is generally defined as a person who performs an act of bravery, often at the risk of personal injury. Clearly, those to whom we presented the Medal of Merit today should be considered heroes. All acted with little regard for their own safety when they came to the aid of others.

But what about those who lost their lives while simply performing their assigned agency tasks? Should they not also be called heroes?

Every day thousands of correctional professionals enter our institutions and provide security, medical services, program treatment and dozens of other critical direct and indirect services required to operate a correctional facility. Few speak of the inherent risks posed by such work, yet the concern is never far from their thoughts - or from the thoughts of their loved ones at home.

Our presence here today is meant to give voice to those unspoken thoughts. It is a time not only to recognize the past, but also to acknowledge the present. It is a time for us to honor one another and to accept that which is asked of us each day.

Every one of us has a role to play within the Department, yet none of us can do our job without the assistance and support of one another. Some may talk about teamwork as a concept but we practice it every day - especially during times of emergency.

One of our purposes here today is to reflect upon the ultimate sacrifices made by our fellow team members who lost their lives in the line of duty. We all owe a debt of gratitude to our fallen co-workers for their commitment to this Department. Recognizing them as heroes is our way of staying connected to them as we continue their commitment to our correctional system.

Our other purpose today is to applaud the personal efforts of seven outstanding employees who are examples of what it means to be a correctional employee and hero.

These extraordinary individuals went beyond the call of duty, risking their own safety to help citizens in the community. All used the skills they learned and honed working in a correctional facility to make a profound difference in the lives of those who had no direct connection to our prison system.

What today’s medal recipients demonstrated is the spirit of dedication, professionalism and selflessness that makes our correctional system among the safest in the nation.

While the acts of heroism we honor today occurred outside prison perimeters, they resulted from the qualities that define correctional employees: courage, skill and a sense of moral obligation to do what must be done to maintain safety.

We count on employees like our medal recipients every day to keep order and security under potentially dangerous conditions. It is a credit to all correctional employees that our prisons continue to operate safely, but we must remain vigilant; the 35 fallen heroes we honor today demand that of us.

As we go forward, we must remain steadfast in our commitment and professionalism, and we must never forget the lessons demonstrated by all the heroes we acknowledge today.

In the words of John F. Kennedy, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”