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Wings salute Michigan’s finest at JLA

by Zack Crawford / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT – Fans entering Joe Louis Arena on Tuesday night might have been somewhat taken aback by the flashing lights up and down Steve Yzerman Drive. But the numerous police cars and special unit vehicles were stationed outside the Joe for unthreatening reasons.

The game against the Colorado Avalanche marked the second annual Law Enforcement Appreciation Night. Special ticket packages were offered to all law enforcement officers, employees, and their family and friends. Each ticket included a Police Appreciation Night T-shirt.

“We are honored to have the opportunity to join in the celebration of the lives of these fallen heroes and salute their dedication to preserving our safety,” said Robert Carr, Red Wings’ senior vice president of operations & legal affairs.

More than 1,870 tickets were sold through the promotion with $10 from the sale of each ticket donated to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund in support of their campaign to build a National Law Enforcement Museum in Washington D.C.

Before the puck dropped, an immaculate Honor and Color Guard — made up of riflemen and flag-bearers from the Michigan Fraternal Order of Police — took the ice with Karen Newman, whose rendering of the National Anthem was dedicated to all law enforcement officials who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

“It’s an honor for us to be able to pay tribute to the officers who have been killed in the line of duty,” said Lieutenant Eddie Tujaka, a rifleman from Grosse Pointe, who volunteers his time to the Honor Guard. “The greatest sacrifice anyone can give—their life—for service, for their fellow man and woman, is the greatest sacrifice you can give and that’s why we do this. To honor them and to honor their memory and to make sure that no one ever forgets.”

Five Michigan officers have been killed in action in 2011. Representatives from each of those officer’s departments joined the Honor Guard on the ice before the game.

For Livonia Interim Chief of Police Curtis Caid, the opportunity to honor a fallen officer was much more than professional. His brother-in-law, Larry Nehasil of the Livonia Police Department, was killed in action in January of 2011.

“It’s really hard to explain how much all of this means for the departments and for the families,” Chief Caid said. “Any time you have the opportunity to represent your department, to represent the family of a fallen officer, it’s an honor. There’s no other way to put that. And for the Red Wings organization to recognize those sacrifices and take the time to recognize the families and those officers—it’s heartwarming.”

As soon as the Appreciation Night tickets were released, Chief Caid—a father of two who has been with the Livonia Police Department for 32 years—scooped up twenty tickets for his family and friends.

While the Wings lit the lamp within the Joe, the department vehicles parked outside continued to blaze their lights in the warm November air.

Amidst the idling patrol cars, unmarked Challengers, Chargers and Camaros, the Detroit Police Department showed off their Global Electric Motor car, an entirely electric car that DPD uses in hands-on presentations to teach high-school students the dangers of drinking and driving.

And for any fans who hadn’t known about Law Enforcement Appreciation Night before getting to the Joe on Tuesday night, the FBI’s massive Mine Resistant Ambush Protected armored vehicle lining Yzerman Drive said it loud and clear– Law Enforcement was in the house.
The National Law Enforcement Museum is slated to open in Washington D.C. in 2013. The Museum will tell the story of American law enforcement through high-tech, interactive exhibits, collections, research and education. Click here for information and details on how to donate to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
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