Department of Corrections and Community Supervision

Remarks by Commissioner Brian Fischer
Medals and Memorial Ceremony
Albany Training Academy
June 4, 2009

I would like to thank all of you for attending our 10th memorial ceremony today. In gathering here, we are demonstrating our commitment not only to our State’s correctional system, but just as importantly, to one another.

The support we provide to our colleagues every day as members of one, united organization is indispensable to our success in maintaining one of the best prison systems in the nation.

The employees we honor today symbolize that success and its underpinnings of dedication, professionalism, humanitarianism and courage, both inside and outside the confines of our correctional facilities. Officer Siskavich took courageous action to protect his colleagues and an inmate inside his facility. Officer Miller’s extraordinary bravery potentially saved the lives of a mother and her two young daughters in his community.

Each man used skills developed and practiced in a correctional facility to make a profound difference in the lives of people both directly connected and not connected to our prison system. Both men displayed the dedication that more than 30,000 of our colleagues devote in ways large and small to the people of this State, day in and day out, in providing security, medical care, education, programming, treatment and dozens of other services necessary to run our correctional facilities.

In carrying out such duties, 35 of our employees have paid with their lives in the line of duty. To them, we pay special tribute today, as we do every year, and will continue to do so every year.

Their sacrifice is never far from our thoughts, and we carry a constant debt of gratitude to each and every one of them for their commitment to the Department, the State, and most importantly, their colleagues and fellow citizens. Today’s ceremony is the appropriate occasion to reflect upon the unspoken concerns of all who walk into a correctional facility every day – and of their families and loved ones at home. It is also the appropriate occasion to remind ourselves that the more we honor, support, respect and help one another, the more we mitigate those risks.

Our Medal of Merit recipients demonstrated the qualities that make us what we are: the knowledge that the goal of maintaining safety requires whatever it takes, the skill and willingness to do whatever it takes, and the fortitude to carry out the tasks at hand without hesitation.

Our 35 fallen colleagues did not knowingly place themselves in jeopardy, nor did they consider their own personal safety when they went to work on those fateful days. They were confronted by a set of circumstances not of their own doing and beyond their control. Such situations are familiar to anyone who works in a correctional system. They force us to be ever aware of what is going on around us and, more importantly, to recognize the need for each of us to protect one another.

It would be easy to judge today’s medal honorees solely on their actual deed, but we should look beyond that and consider what they did for others. It’s the self-sacrifice aspect of their actions that we recognize today.

In that spirit, I would also like to pay tribute to the many Department employees who are currently serving their nation and their fellow citizens as members of the United States Armed Forces.

And for those we remember today, please appreciate that they are not merely names on a page. Like our medal honorees, they were, are and always will be our colleagues and our friends. Many of us have known these individuals personally, socialized with them, laughed with them. Let’s always be mindful that we are never alone. We are part of an organization that values each and every one of us.

I would like to close with a very simple quote from the French writer Romain Rolland that sums up what we at Corrections are all about and what today’s honorees demonstrated: “A hero,” Rolland said, “is a man who does what he can.”

Thank you.