Fairfax: ‘Honoring the Lives of Fallen Officers’

Fairfax: ‘Honoring the Lives of Fallen Officers’

Chief Pardiny bicycles in Police Unity Tour.

City of Fairfax police welcome the PUT riders as they bicycle through Fairfax.

City of Fairfax police welcome the PUT riders as they bicycle through Fairfax.


City Police Chief Carl Pardiny (in bike shorts) with motorcycle officers (from left) PFC Brock Rutter, PFC James Litz and PFC Wade Brabble.

Each May, law enforcement officers from around the country participate in the Police Unity Tour (PUT) bike ride in honor of their colleagues, nationwide, who’ve died in the line of duty. This year, there were some 2,000 bicyclists and one of them was Fairfax City Police Chief Carl Pardiny.

The three-day ride was held last Tuesday-Thursday, May 10-12. It raises money for and awareness of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund and the National Law Enforcement Museum being built in Washington, D.C. And it honors and remembers all federal, state and local law enforcement officers who’ve lost their lives while doing their jobs.

“This was my first time doing it,” said Pardiny. “And this year was significant because it was the 20th anniversary of the Police Unity Tour. My family’s always supported the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund financially, and I thought it would be a good way to get some exercise, meet the other officers and survivors and provide whatever support I could to the cause.”

He started training in January, riding as much as he could while working full-time. He usually biked 20 miles at a time, and at least 80 miles a week, if it wasn’t raining or snowing. “The hardest part was finding the time to train,” said Pardiny. “But it really paid off – it’s a difficult ride.”

After taking a bus to Richmond, the cyclists pedaled 98 miles from there to Charlottesville on the first leg of their journey, May 10. The next day, they traveled 76 miles to Warrenton, followed by 43 miles more, on May 12, to Washington, D.C.


From left, PFC Brock Rutter, PFC James Litz, Police Chief Carl Pardiny and PFC Wade Brabble.

PARDINY bicycled with the PUT Chapter IV contingent, led by Fairfax County police, It comprised 150 people, including 110 riders and 40 support staff from 15 different states.

On the last day, said Pardiny, all the different chapters from throughout the country met at RFK Stadium and rode into the District together. En route, after City motorcycle officers Brock Rutter, James Litz and Wade Brabble blocked off traffic, Pardiny and the others pulled into the City of Fairfax, shortly before noon, for a local welcome. They were greeted at Fairfax Circle by a group from the Fairfax Police Department who’d come to cheer them on. And, said Pardiny, “It was very touching to see the outpouring of support.”

To participate in the PUT, each rider had to raise a minimum of $1,700. Pardiny raised more than $4,500. “I paid my own way, and some people donated,” he said. “And Brown’s Automotive Group in Fairfax provided significant funding for the memorial fund, as did the Fairfax City Police Assn.” Overall, this year’s event yielded $2,317,351 for that fund.

Over the past decade, an average of 146 officers a year have been killed in the line of duty; in 2015, that number was 123. And each PUT rider wore a wristband inscribed with the name of one of those officers. That’s why, although this story is about Pardiny’s experience during the ride, he says it’s really “not about me; it’s about honoring the lives of our fallen police officers who made the ultimate sacrifice, protecting our communities.”

During their three days, the participants shared many sad stories of dedication and loss. And, said Pardiny, “It’s amazing how we came together as a law-enforcement family to support our survivors, while paying tribute to those who died.”

“The hills were extremely challenging, especially coming into Charlottesville,” he continued. “But every time I thought my legs would give out on a long climb up a steep roadway, I'd look down at my Unity Tour bracelet and remember why I was riding. You’re struggling, but riding for a reason – in honor of that officer.”

Pardiny rode for Virginia State Police Trooper Nathan-Michael William Smith, 27, who died in a single-vehicle crash on Sept. 21, 2015. “He was responding to what he thought was a distress call regarding a trooper-down situation,” said Pardiny. “He took a turn too fast while exiting from I-295 onto I-95 in Prince George County, Va. His car overturned and hit several trees. He left behind a wife, two children and his parents. He only had 15 months on the job; it was very sad.”

Other police officers and survivors who rode with Chapter IV also talked about police co-workers, friends and family members who died under horrific circumstances, last year and in years past. “Their pain was palpable,” said Pardiny. “And these accounts really drive home the realization that, no matter the size of the jurisdiction, policing is a very difficult, challenging and dangerous job. All of our officers face tremendous challenges; however, they have a desire to make a difference in their communities and to help others – and some have paid the ultimate price, selflessly.”

ON THE BRIGHT SIDE, he said, as the cyclists rode from Richmond to the District, they “passed countless people along the way, holding signs, waving flags, cheering for us and thanking us for our service. They were standing in their front yards, alongside the roadways, in front of mobile homes, shopping centers, at overpasses – you name it, they were out there showing their support and thanking us.”

Pardiny said that experience was one of the most rewarding parts of the ride. And, he explained, “It tells me that the vast, silent majority of people care for, respect, appreciate and understand the difficult job our police officers face, each and every day, as they serve our communities. They know that officers put their lives on the line keeping our residents safe and providing services – from changing an elderly woman’s flat tire to throwing themselves headlong into danger.”

Often, the ride was tough. On the second day, for example, there were tremendous downpours and the cyclists were cold and wet from the heavy rain. But they persevered. “There were lots of dedicated offices out there who took their mission seriously and never lost sight of it,” said Pardiny. “It’s important that we never forget the officers who died in the line of duty.”


Police Unity Tour bicyclists ride through Fairfax last week.

He said riding into the nation’s capital with all the PUT riders was also “an amazing experience. As we rode together into the Law Enforcement Memorial, we were greeted by hundreds, if not thousands, of supporters, wishing us well and thanking us. Among them were little children who’d lost parents, moms and dads, spouses, co-workers and friends of fallen police officers.”

Pardiny gave up some of his vacation time to do the PUT. But, he said, “I was humbled by this experience and grateful to have the opportunity to ride with wonderful, law-enforcement professionals and survivors, all while raising money for the Law Enforcement Memorial Fund and museum. This year, I’ll finish 28 years as a police officer in the City, and I figured it was about time for me to go and do this.”

Tax-deductible contributions to the fund or the museum may be made at www.nleomf.org/contribute/.