Now that a few weeks have passed and Thanksgiving is in the rearview, we thought this would be the perfect opportunity to recap what was, hands down, one of the most amazing law enforcement gatherings in recent times.
Already monsters in the law enforcement and charity games, when Brothers Before Others Founder/President Michael Burke joined forces with The Blue Magazine CEO Daniel Del Valle and Moment of Silence Inc. President Steve Olimpio, a perfect storm was created. With help from their individual teams, what these three men pulled off on November 21st is a testament to what happens when egos are put aside and true benevolence is the focus.
Rarely do you ever see PBA’s, FOP’s and all of the “alphabet organizations” come together for a single event, let alone 900+ peoples worth. Well, that’s exactly what happened at the Venetian (Garfield, NJ) that night.
The night opened with a soul-stirring set by the Bergen County Police Pipes and Drums, with the colors being presented by the Paramus Police Honor Guard. The set incorporated the Pledge of Allegiance lead by Alyssa Del Valle and the National Anthem sung by Hudson County Corrections Officer Lakia Gaillard.
The performance also included a ‘military set’, which honored each brach of the military by playing their respective anthems. During this set, every attendee who had served stood during their respective anthem so that they could be recognized for their sacrifice and heroism.
With the introductions out of the way, the MC of the evening, former NYPD Commissioner Bernard Kerik, took over. Years removed from active service and universally remembered for his steadfast leadership through the worst terrorist attack on US soil, Commissioner Kerik remains one of the most vocal and active advocates for today’s law enforcement officers. In his words,
“Never has there been a time in our country’s history where our military and law enforcement organizations have been attacked as they are today, which is why these three organizations (Brothers Before Others, Blue Magazine, Moment of Silence) are so important. One supports our nations law enforcement when the ultimate sacrifice is made, another is an unfiltered voice for the men and women in blue, and the third addresses perhaps our most daunting problem, blue suicide.”
Highlighted in an earlier story on this site, the first person honored that evening was (ret) Miami Police Sergeant Genevieve Jones. Her resumé reads like a storybook and her benevolence has continued well beyond her retirement. As police survivor herself, ‘Ginger’ has dedicated her life to defending the thin blue line. In recognition of this, she was honored as the 2019 Brothers Before Others ‘Member of the Year’.
Megan O’Grady who, at the age of 14, had founded Blue Line Bears, hand making one of a kind teddy bears out of the uniform shirts of fallen police officers and then presenting them to the families left behind, was in attendance with some special presentations. Megan had made bears for both the families of Asbury Park Police Detective April Bird and NYPD Police Detective Lou Alvarez. Both the Bird family and the Alvarez family were also in attendance and were then presented with the bears.
What Megan didn’t know was that she too was to be honored. In recognition for her selfless work supporting families who have lost a loved one in the line of duty, Megan was presented with the ‘Humanitarian Award’. Also, since she is now preparing to head off to college, on behalf of all three organizations, Megan was presented with $1000 to put towards her education.
The first of the two ‘Ally Awards’ went to Brothers Before Others sponsor and 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Attorney, Michael Barasch. Michael has been at the forefront of the battle for adequate and continuous funding for the VCF, making countless trips to Washington, DC with his team and effected families. Along with fellow 9/11 attorney’s Matt McCauley and Troy Rosasco, the three attorneys each sponsored a full table of 9/11 first responders and their families who, as a result, were able to attend the event free of charge. The level to which these men take the task before them personally is humbling to witness.
Joining Matt McCauley at his table were 9/11 first responder, John Feal, who heads the Feal Good Foundation, and his personal friend and 9/11 first responder advocate Jon Stewart. Lost in the world of satire and social media, is just how embedded in the fight for the VCF that Jon Stewart has been. He more than lended his celebrity to this fight. As someone who has witnessed first hand this mans benevolence and genuine care for the civil servant community, especially those who sacrificed on 9/11 and continue to suffer today, I can tell you that there is no more humble and grateful man walking this planet today. His level of inherent respect for the work being done cannot be faked. Despite his aggressive resistance, Jon was recognized for this, even taking the mic for a bit to remind us of why we can’t thank HIM enough.
The second ‘Ally Award’ went to the irreplaceable Dr Aleksandr Martirosov, who heads Tri State Health and Wellness Center, located in Fair Lawn, NJ. Anyone who has ever taken advantage of the services that ‘Dr Alex’ provides will tell you: NO ONE does it better when it comes to caring for the law enforcement community. If you are local and haven’t visited his office yet, you’d be crazy not to.
In August of 2019, a suspect wearing body armor and armed with a rifle engaged the Irvington Police Department in a shootout that would ultimately cost him his life. Multiple Irvington Police Officers were shot and injured, one of which was shot in both legs. In recognition of the proficiency and bravery shown that day, which included a police sergeant covering one of the wounded officers with her own body, the 2019 ‘Valor Award’ was present to all of the responding officers from that scene, with one being held back for Officer Brandon Gaeta who is still recovering from his injuries. The awards were presented by law enforcement icons former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
The second half of the program opened with a special presentation by Steve Olimpio. As Commissioner Kerik eluded to earlier, blue suicide has become a growing problem in the law enforcement community. We can sit for hours and argue over the ‘why’, however, combating it starts with conversation; conversation that needs to come from those who have stared down stress, depression, PTSD, anxiety and all of the factors that could drive someone to that dark place; those who have faced their demons and won. All three organizations are blessed to have one such person on our side(s) who has done just that, Passaic County Sheriff’s Officer Erika Vicente. Her bravery and selfless work forwarding the mission of Moment of Silence is the the blue print for what is so desperately needed if we, as a profession, are ever going to get ahead of this issue.
The 2019 ‘Woman of the Year’ award was presented to New York Times best-selling author, Michelle Malkin. As a wife, mother, blogger, conservative syndicated columnist and longtime Fox News contributor, Michelle has been vocally supporting the American police officer since roughly 1999. She can routinely be found at pro-law enforcement rallies, especially most recently those supporting our US Border Patrol. A few years ago, when President Obama failed to light the White House blue in recognition of National Police Week, Michelle joined members of Brothers Before Others and the law enforcement community in DC as THEY ‘lit the White House up blue’, symbolically standing out front wearing blue glow sticks around their necks and vocally highlighting the inherent disrespect that was being shown. Seemingly every time a false narrative is being pandered to the anti-law enforcement mob, Michelle is always amongst the first ones standing against that tide. During the gala’s cocktail hour and prior to being honored, Michelle generously donated and personally signed copies of her latest book, ‘Open Borders Inc.‘ where she held an impromptu meet and greet.
The 2019 ‘Man of the Year’ Award was presented to former US ICE Director Tom Homan. A 34 year law enforcement professional, Director Homan served as a police officer in New York, a US Border Patrol agent, a special agent with the former US Immigration and Naturalization Service as well as Supervisory Special Agent and Deputy Assistant Director for Investigations. Director Homan then headed ICE from January 30, 2017 until his retirement on June 30, 2018. Since his retirement, Director Homan has spent much of his time advocating for law enforcement, specifically his former agency, testifying, er, SHREDDING Congress for their betrayal and false narratives as they apply to same. A ‘cops cop’ in every sense of the word, Director Homan spoke to the attendees, in large part, about the “greatest President he ever worked for”, Donald Trump. He stressed that no President in modern history has “had the six” of the American police officer quite like President Trump. At one point, Director Homan even lead the entire room in a “USA” chant. Even though the night was his, Director Homan presented Daniel Del Valle and The Blue Magazine team with a copy of his cover issue which had been signed by President Trump.
The last award of the evening, the “Steven McDonald Lifetime Achievement Award”, was presented to NYPD Police Benevolent Association President, Pat Lynch. With the permission of his son, Conor, and his widow, Patti Ann, the award was named after the late NYPD Detective Steven McDonald. After being shot in the line of duty and paralyzed in July of 1986, Detective McDonald spent the next 30 years of life traveling the world as an ambassador for forgiveness, his God, the NYPD and the entire law enforcement community. It was only appropriate that an award recognizing a lifetime of service be named after a man who epitomized what that truly means. It was even more fitting that both Conor and Patti Ann were in attendance and were able to physically present the award.
A 35 year police veteran, Pat has served as the President of the NYPD PBA since 1999. His status as a union leader in legendary. While he physically represents the members of the NYPD, his words and his passion resonate with police officers from coast to coast. His uncompromising and unwavering support of the members he serves has earned him such nicknames as “New York City’s Blue Bulldog”. The award that was presented to Pat, done by Brodin Studios(MN), incorporated a poem that Steven McDonald would routinely hand out at his speaking engagements, “You Are Very Special”. Steven wanted each and every person he encountered to know that their individuality and their uniqueness WAS their biggest asset; that no one is capable of what you are capable of in the way only you can do it. With that exact sentiment in mind, there was no better recipient for this award than Pat Lynch. No matter where he speaks or where he appears, Pat reminds all the wannabes what TRUE leadership looks like.
If you wandered the room that night, at virtually every table, you would find true blue cops or their supporters, all with stories to tell; From Philadelphia Police Officer/Forensic Sketch Artist/BBO Partner Jonny Castro who has been creating portraits of American heroes and those lost in the line of duty since 2016, to American Artist Scott Lobaido, who generously donated a one of his own canvas paintings to be raffled off as a fundraiser supporting all three organizations.
With all the awards handed out that evening and all of the attendees, the biggest winner that night was the fraternity. While BBO Founder/President Michael Burke was being recognized for his ability to bring people together from all walks of life and all levels of law enforcement from every corner of this nation, the following was said: “You rarely see gatherings like this within the law enforcement community; where cops simply come together to celebrate each other and all that is good about this profession; where cops come together to celebrate each other for the simple sake of celebrating each other. And that is sad, because that is exactly what this profession is in dire need of”.
There will be other gatherings and other awards handed out. It will be hard to top the lightening in the bottle that was captured on November 21st. Every attendee left that gala reminded that the fraternity is alive and well if you just take the time to look in the right places.