Ed Ignacio, a former Honolulu police officer, comes from a long line of Hawaii police officers and public servants. A few years ago, the FBI sent him to Washington, D.C. to work, and Ignacio visited the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, which is the nation’s monument to law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty.
The Memorial features two curving, 304-foot-long blue-gray marble walls carved with the names of more than 21,000 officers who have been killed in the line of duty throughout U.S. history, dating back to the first known death in 1791. Unlike many other memorials in Washington, DC, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial is ever-changing: new names of fallen officers are added to the monument each spring, in conjunction with National Police Week.
“When I went back home, I learned that Hawaii is the only state without a memorial honoring fallen officers,” said Igancio, who is now an FBI Honolulu Division Supervisory Special Agent. “All of the family members and kapuna and friends who wanted to honor Hawaii’s foreign officers had to travel all the way to D.C. to do that.”
Ignacio knew he wanted to do something to change that but he wasn’t sure what. As an FBI agent, he can’t ask for money.
Then, in 2012, when Ignacio was competing in the Ironman World Championship in Kona, he met Rob Verhelst, aka “Fireman Rob.” In 2001, when Verhelst was a 23-year old firefighter, he traveled from Madison, Wisconsin to spend eight days at Ground Zero working Search, Rescue and Recovery at the World Trade Center. Since then, he’s finished many Ironman races, completing the marathon segment in full firefighter’s gear.
“I asked him why he was doing that,” said Ignacio. “He told me he was raising money and awareness for the firefighters who lost their lives on 9/11. I told him, ‘Hey, Brah, I’m going to borrow your idea.'”
Ignacio contacted the Hawaii Law Enforcement Memorial Foundation (HLEMF) and told them that he could bring awareness to their cause and direct donations their way. Since then, Igancio has been competing in Ironman events and donning SWAT gear and a kevlar helmet to raise awareness for Hawaii’s police officers killed in the line of duty.
Ignacio’s SWAT gear weighs 45-50 pounds, so he doesn’t wear the gear in the swim or bike portion of the event.
“I want to honor the event and the other competitors,” said Ignacio. “I respect the fact that all those people worked hard to get there and I don’t want to be in the way. I want to be a competitor. I’m just doing it for a cause.”
In his races, Ignacio hands out cards with the HLEMF information and talks to people about why he is racing in such heavy and uncomfortable gear.
On Sunday, Ignacio is going to race in the XTERRA World Championship in Maui. For this challenging, off-road competition, Ignacio is going to wear a “Murph” vest, named in honor of Lt. Michael Murphy, a fallen U.S. Navy Seal and Special Forces operative.
“I knew I needed to have more mobility for my arms on the XTERRA course and the Murph vest is a bit better for that,” said Ignacio. “And I get to honor another comrade when I wear it.”
Ignacio, who works out of the Honolulu office, has raised over $700,000 for the Hawaii Law Enforcement Memorial Foundation. Today, there is a memorial for Hawaii’s fallen officers on Punchbowl Street in Honolulu.
Ignacio has competed in over 30 races with his vest on. He continues to raise money for the upkeep of the memorial as well as to provide a scholarship fund for the families of fallen officers.
“Even though I’ve trained a lot, I’m still nervous for my first XTERRA because it’s something new,” he said. “But ultimately, I’m doing this for a cause and I’m going to cross the finish line with a smile on my face.”
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