Church member Larry Wilson worked in the Los Angeles Field Office of the FBI for 15 of his 25 years as an FBI Agent. Needless to say, he and his colleagues have had some interesting experiences and seen some things, many of which he isn’t at liberty to share.
Back in 1986, as a result of his position as a Supervisory Special Agent, he recognized that there was a morale problem with the employees of the Los Angeles Field Office. Something had to be done, but what? After some thought, he realized that no one had ever formally recognized the fallen agents, their dear friends, who were killed in the line of duty.
During this time, Larry had been a regular visitor at First UMC Santa Monica for about 4 years. He would pray for his fallen colleagues and, in 1986, prayed for an inspiration on how to honor them. His prayers were answered while attending the All Saints service held in November each year.
All Saints is a very special service when thanks is given for members of the church who have died during the past year. Larry was especially moved by the bell ringing after each name was read out loud, echoing through the sanctuary. It was then he decided a similar memorial for the fallen agents was what was needed.
He contacted FBI Headquarters, in Washington, D.C., to identify any organizational policies regarding such an event and whether there was already a program he could follow to create the Los Angeles Field Office Memorial Service. He was advised that such events were left up to the discretion of each Field Office, that they could use their own initiative to create their own program. That is just what he and the employees of the Los Angeles Field Office did.
He began an inquiry with his entire staff, encouraging ideas and input from support personnel and Special Agents, to create a memorial for the Los Angeles Office. He took their suggestions, and, building on his own knowledge of ceremonies from his time in the Marines, the planning for the inaugural FBI Memorial Service began. This was achieved without FBI Headquarters involvement, so, Larry and his office persisted and organized and sponsored the ceremony on their own. It has been held every year since then and has even been recognized by FBI Headquarters as the standard for all other Field Offices. Three different FBI Directors have participated as the keynote speakers for the event.
Many of the First UMC congregation and clergy have attended. The Rev. Patricia Farris has given the Invocation and Benediction. Church members Mary Crawford and Robert Hedges have repeatedly volunteered as the bell ringers. Thirty-two years later, Larry continues to spearhead the event, continuously performing the duties of the “Master of Ceremonies” even though he retired from the Bureau in 1995. His mission to honor fallen FBI agents and to give glory to God for their lives continues.
All are welcome to attend the 32nd Annual FBI Memorial Service. This year’s keynote speaker is actor Joe Mantegna.
32nd Annual FBI Memorial Service Tuesday, May 8, 11 a.m. Westwood Federal Building, Los Angeles, 90024
This article first appeared in the May 2018 Sentinel.