Madison — The Wisconsin Law Enforcement Memorial stands at the north corner of Capitol Square, a low circle of gray granite surrounding a bed of cheerfully bright flowers.
A less ostentatious monument you are unlikely to find here, compared to the looming statues of Civil War officers and the incomparable Capitol itself.
You’d be forgiven if you failed to recognize it as a memorial at all, or thought it just a convenient and decorative place to sit. Then you might notice the names. More than 260 names inscribed in the pale stone. Every one of them a Wisconsin law officer lost in the line of duty.
Today there are five more, representing the two officers who fell while on watch last year, and three more whose deaths nearly 100 years ago had been long overlooked.
One is Sergio Aleman, an Oak Creek resident and Milwaukee County sheriff's deputy who died on duty last July.
The last name to be inscribed is the one most recently lost — Jennifer L. Sebena, whose death on Christmas Eve plunged Wauwatosa into mourning, the darkest holiday in a city’s collective memory.
Friday marked a day for the entire state — most particularly law enforcement officers from dozens of villages, cities and counties, from the State Patrol and the wardens of Department of Natural Resources — to pause and pay thanks to Sebena, Aleman and the others not only for giving their lives, but, as every speaker pointed out, for living their lives so well while they lasted.
'We are all together in this'
The day was all too eerily reminiscent of Dec. 30, when most of these same officers, hundreds of them, put on their dress uniforms and made the drive to Elmbrook Church in Brookfield to lay Jen Sebena to rest.
A massed honor guard of units from a dozen departments stretched nearly from the corner back to the Capitol Steps, their somber ranks of dark blue broken only by the bright baby blue of the uniforms of the Wisconsin Dells High School Band, providing music for the event.
"We try as a group to bring in units representative of whole state, to show the true spirit we have that we are all together in this," said Brookfield Police Assistant Chief Dean Collins, a board member of Wisconsin Law Enforcement Memorial Inc. and the chaplain for the ceremony.
"Of course, the point of primacy is given to the departments that have lost officers."
Be that as it may, it was perhaps difficult for the organizers to be as broad-based as they wished this year. Sebena was memorialized alongside four Milwaukee County Sheriff’s deputies. The clamor from local departments to participate and show support was apparently enormous and impossible to deny.
"We work so much with Wauwatosa," said a member of the Milwaukee Police Honor Guard, "we know all of them, and they know so many of us."
Many departments take part
The Oak Creek honor guard was front and center again — those officers served as Sebena’s pallbearers when she was laid to rest Dec. 30.
The rifle squad — seven officers who shouldered and fired three crisp volleys for the fallen — hailed from the Menomonee Falls Police Department.
Besides Chaplain Collins, the Brookfield Police Department was represented by Sgt. Mark Tushaus, who took overall command of all the honor guards.
"I was in Azana Spa with all those Wauwatosa officers," Tushaus said, "side by side with them. We all need to do this, do each other this honor."
Wauwatosa officers for the most part chose to stay with the ranks of those who processed to the Capitol and around it in scores of marked squads with flashing lights and then stood silent witness.
But one place of high honor — middle position in the color guard, holding the state flag — was occupied by Wauwatosa Officer Chad Geizler.
Geizler stood at rigid attention in the cold throughout Collins’ invocation, through remarks by Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen and Gov. Scott Walker, through musical interludes and through Wauwatosa Police Chief Barry Weber’s stirring and emotional keynote speech.
In 40 years in law enforcement, begun as a dispatcher and through the ranks to the top, Weber said, “Christmas Eve, that day, was a day like no other in my career. I had never known the loss of an officer.”