WASHINGTON, D.C. | Lake County Sheriff's Sgt. Vernon Joiner Sr. smiled Monday night as he recalled the vibrant laugh of slain Lake County Corrections Officer Britney Meux.
“It’s funny how life is,” he said. “You joke and laugh with someone and you never think you’d be giving their final salute.”
Joiner, a Lake County Sheriff's Department honor guard commander, was one of about 40 county officers who traveled to the nation’s capital to remember Meux at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial’s candlelight vigil.
Meux died in March 2012 after being struck by an SUV while jogging in Crown Point. She was 25.
Her name was among more than 300 other names of law enforcement officials who were added to the memorial this year. About 120 of the officers died in 2012 while the others were additions that had been overlooked in previous years.
The Pipes and Drums of the Lake County Sheriff participated in the remembrance program. The team of about 20 performed prior to the vigil.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano paid her respects to the fallen officers and made remarks during the ceremony.
“Always remember the lives they lived, contributions they made and the examples they set,” she said.
The national monument includes more than 19,900 fallen officials from across the nation and U.S. territories.
The names are engraved into the walls of the monument each year as part of National Police Week, which is being celebrated this week.
In addition to Meux, two other Indiana officers were added to the monument: Kenneth William Hayden, of the Fort Wayne Police Department, and Timothy A. Betts, of the Indiana Department of Correction.
Meux is the fifth Lake County officer to be added to the national monument, Sheriff John Buncich said.
“Somebody on Facebook sent me a photo of her name on the wall,” he said. “It’s sad that, again, we have to add another one of ours to the wall.”
A modest wreath of white and yellow flowers accompanied a candle that had on it Meux’s name, photograph and “Indiana Remembers.” The tribute was placed above the block where her name was engraved.
Many officers from departments as far away as California and Florida stopped to look at her photograph.
Buncich said he was disappointed he wasn’t able to get to the ceremony this week, but he plans to visit the monument during a personal trip later this year.
Lake County officials plan to honor Meux during a local ceremony at 10 a.m. Friday at the memorial gardens at the Lake County Government Complex.
A Lakes of the Four Seasons man is charged with multiple drunken driving-related felonies in connection to Meux's death and serious injuries to three additional officers. He is scheduled for trial June 24.
Jason Cozmanoff, 43, is accused of striking the officers with an SUV while they were jogging March 6, 2012, on a road off the Government Complex.
Cozmanoff is free on bond.