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Honoring Fallen Civil Service Heroes

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

September 30, 2014

Since 1992, over 3,000 federal civil servants have been killed in the line of duty. Those who have given their lives in service to the nation have come from agencies as diverse as the Drug Enforcement Administration, the National Park Service, the Department of Defense, the Peace Corps, the IRS and the Forest Service. Until just a few years ago, no governmentwide honor acknowledged them.

Fallen heroIn December 2011, President Obama signed the Civilian Service Recognition Act, which provides the next of kin a U.S. burial flag for any federal civil servant killed due to, “a criminal act, an act of terrorism, a natural disaster or other circumstances as determined by the president.” On Sept. 10, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issued its Final Rule to implement this law. As OPM Director Katherine Archuleta stated in a letter to all agency heads, “I am inspired by America’s finest men and women who honorably serve across our nation and encourage all agencies to take pride in recognizing those federal employees who have made the ultimate sacrifice.”

In 2013, OPM also inaugurated a Wall of Honor in its headquarters building with the inscription: “In Grateful Memory of Federal Civilian Employees Who Gave Their Lives for Our Country.” The wall has 52 stars, representing federal employees from the 50 States, the District of Columbia and the U.S. territories. OPM’s website also lists the names of those who have given their lives since the Civilian Service Recognition Act was passed. This is the only governmentwide memorial for federal civil servants.

Despite their many contributions to so many aspects of our society, federal civil servants are often criticized, maligned or ignored. Yet they are not nameless, faceless bureaucrats. They have lives, families and work hard to achieve public goals. When that work puts them in harm’s way – and even worse when it takes their lives – we owe them our thanks and we need to honor them. We can now do so in symbolic and important ways.

For more information about both of these efforts to honor our public servants, visit http://www.opm.gov and search for flag benefit and wall of honor. If you know of someone whose family has earned the flag benefit and whose name should be on the Wall of Honor, contact the personnel office in the agency where the individual worked.

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The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

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