Remarks as prepared for delivery
Good morning. Thank you, Administrator Rosenberg, for your kind introduction.
And thank you to four of the previous Administrators of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as well: Peter Bensinger, John Lawn, Karen Tandy and Michele Leonhart.
I am honored to be here today. After almost three decades at the Department of Justice, I’ve seen firsthand just how important the DEA is to combatting the manufacture, traffic and use of illegal drugs in our country. Throughout the years, I’ve worked closely with the DEA, as well as the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, and can attest that these organizations are vital to our shared mission of protecting Americans and their families from violent crime and the devastating effects of illegal drugs.
Today, we pay special tribute to those men and women of the DEA who gave their lives in pursuit of this mission. To date, DEA has lost 84 agents and employees in the line of duty. Some of their families are with us here today, but all are remembered by loved ones across the country and we are all safer for their sacrifice.
I’d like to recognize those families of fallen agents who are with us here today. These include relatives of Special Agent Doug Althouse; Task Force Officer Jay Balchunas; Special Agent Frank Wallace; Special Agent Terry Loftus; Special Agent Thomas Byrne; Special Agent Octavio Gonzalez; Special Agent Meredith Thompson; Special Agent Terry Watson; and Task Force Officer Brent Hanger. These men and women deserve our eternal gratitude for the heartbreak they have sustained at these agents' passing.
We cannot fathom your loss, but we thank you for being here today.
Their unwavering courage and unyielding dedication to the principle that every American deserves equal protection under the law should inspire us all to strive to such levels of excellence. Their faithful execution of duty – without prejudice or selfishness – has in each case advanced the cause of justice and the common good.
And perhaps most importantly, their heroism lives on today. All those participating in this memorial, both here and across the country, are strengthened by the legacy they left behind. We honor their service in our words today and our deeds tomorrow, endeavoring always to preserve and protect our nation through the rule of law.
I recently had the honor of attending a ceremony honoring the life and outstanding contributions of one of Baltimore’s finest. Detective Marcellus (“Marty”) Ward, a 13-year veteran of the Baltimore City Police Department, proudly served as a deputized DEA Task Force Officer. He was shot and killed on Dec. 3, 1994, during an undercover operation. Marty is survived by his wife Sandra and their two sons. In honor of his service, the new Wire Room at the DEA’s Baltimore District Office has been dedicated to this fallen hero. Marty lived a life of example – an example that continues to be emulated by the brave men and woman of the DEA.
To all current agents and employees of the DEA, both here in the United States and stationed in cities across the world, I thank you for your hard work, dedication and bravery, on behalf of the Department of Justice. Each and every one of you – including special agents, diversion investigators, intelligence analysts, forensic chemists and support staff – is integral to our national defense and your daily excellence ensures that American families, of all shapes or sizes, may have the opportunity to live their lives in peace. You truly are warriors of freedom.
The Department of Justice remains committed to supporting this fundamental principle of the rule of law. The staggering rise in prescription drug abuse has demonstrated the need for tough enforcement of existing law. We cannot stand by as this epidemic, which recognizes neither race nor wealth, lays waist to our society.
And this trend is simply the prelude to greater dangers. Prescription drug abuse has paved the way for a surge in heroin addiction and overdose. Transnational cartels and violent gangs have sought to fill the demand for these illegal drugs, escalating conflict and creating a cycle of death and despair. And these threats grow more advanced and complex with each passing day. This cannot continue.
To that end, I pledge to you that the Department of Justice will continue championing your mission in order to stem the tide of violent crime that is rising across the country. Our President has promised to support law enforcement throughout our country, especially as they place themselves at the forefront of our national defense on a daily basis. We believe in the good work that you do, and we have your back.
For the sake of American families everywhere, we must all faithfully execute our duty to uphold the rule of law through the equal administration of justice. And so it is right that today, in honor of those who paid that ultimate price, we reaffirm our commitment to this shared goal.
May God bless the families of our fallen brothers and sisters. May God bless the cause that unites us with them. And may God bless these United States of America.