WAUKESHA, Wis. — A memorial service in Waukesha Thursday night honored the 615 law enforcement officers who died nationwide in 2021.
Of those deaths, 437, or nearly three in four, were from coronavirus complications, including two here in Wisconsin.
The night before Officer Joseph Kurer died from complications of COVID, his second child was born.
Some day his young children will see their father's name among the fallen heroes at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial and hear the stories that will make them proud of his service.
Kurer was just 26 years old.
"Officer Kurer was just a stand up guy who whenever he came in, he had the biggest smile on his face," said Fond du Lac Police Lieutenant Erik Foster.
He says his friend and colleague was a key member of the department after joining in 2018.
When the pandemic hit - and so many jobs put on hold or moved to safer at home offices - officers were still out there doing their jobs.
TMJ4's Charles Benson asked, "How important do you think it is that officers are being recognized for those who died as a result of complications from COVID-19?"
Lt. Foster answered, "I think it's really important, you know, if you go back to when lockdowns happened at the beginning of the pandemic, we were out there, the essential workers were out there."
Master Trooper Daniel Stainbrook was out working as well during the pandemic and died last year of complications from COVID. He was 42 years old.
"He was a 20-year veteran, he's a father, he's a husband, he was an outdoors man and, in particular, he was a very intricate part of our training academy," said Wisconsin State Patrol Superintendent Anthony Burrell.
Trooper Stainbrook's name will also be added to Fallen Heroes Memorial in DC. Superintendent Burrell is in DC for Friday's vigil for all the fallen officers.
"We're here to celebrate the lives and also the memories of the fallen officers that have died in the line of duty and paid the ultimate sacrifice," said Supt. Burrell.
The third officer remembered Thursday night was Milwaukee Police Officer Mark Lentz. He died in 2019 from injuries he suffered in the line of duty in 2017. He was run over by a car while attempting to pull a driver over on his motorcycle.