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Charles City native Benjamin Zirbel to be memorialized in Washington, D.C.

Charles City native Benjamin Zirbel to be memorialized in Washington, D.C.
The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial is located south of the National Building Museum (background) at Judiciary Square. The National Building Museum is visible in the background. Photo courtesy AgnosticPreachersKid/Wikimedia Commons
By Kelly Terpstra, kterpstra@charlescitypress.com

Inscribed on walls at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C., not far from the U.S. Capitol and the White House, are more than 21,000 names of law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty.

Charles City native Benjamin Zirbel’s name is etched on that wall, and on Wednesday his name will be read along with hundreds of other during the Roll Call of Heroes.

The ceremony is part of National Police Week, including the 38th Annual National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service that will be held Wednesday on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol.

Charles City native Benjamin Zirbel to be memorialized in Washington, D.C.
Ben Zirbel

Zirbel, a Charles City High School graduate, was a Clay County Sheriff’s Deputy in Florida and was killed last August when his police motorcycle was struck by a trailer being pulled by a truck that turned in front of him.

Zirbel is the son of Jim Zirbel, a former Charles City police chief who served on the force from 1973-2002. He was police chief from 1995 until his retirement in 2002.

“He was doing what he loved,” said Jim Zirbel of his son, Ben.

Jim, age 70, said that because of an issue of mobility and getting around he won’t be able to make the trip for the ceremony. Family members, including Ben’s wife, Anna, their 8-year-old son Ethan, and Ben’s younger brother Nick, left this past Saturday to attend the event that can draw as many as 40,000 people.

Benjamin and Anna both graduated from Charles City High School and later moved to Florida. Prior to that move, Jim said, Ben took automotive classes at NIACC.

“He realized he really didn’t want to be a mechanic,” said Jim.

Ben Zirbel was a 12-year veteran at the Clay County Sheriff’s Department and worked in the motorcycle patrol division.

Anna Zirbel said her husband was an organ donor and up to seven lives were saved through his donations. His tissues could help as many as 100 people.

“Ben’s passion in life was to help people, which is why he became a sheriff’s deputy,” Anna Zirbel had said at a press conference in Florida at the time of the accident. “Even now in this moment of our most painful grief, I’m happy to say that Ben is still helping people.

“We never know what’s coming next in life, so don’t take a single day for granted,” she said. “If there’s one message to come from this, I wish everyone would become a registered organ donor.”

The Clay County Sheriff’s Office started a campaign earlier this year that raised more than $30,000 so several deputies can make the trip up north to the nation’s Capitol to remember their fallen comrade.

“It’s something that, you know, 10 to 15 years from now I can go to that wall and say I knew that guy. He was a great guy and he died doing what he loved,” Lt. Dom Paniccia told CBS 47 News in Jacksonville.

Anna and Ethan honored Benjamin at a separate memorial this past Wednesday in Green Cove Springs, Florida. Anna placed a yellow rose near Benjamin’s picture at the local ceremony and Ethan placed his rose on a motorcycle honoring his father. Anna is the daughter of Rick McDonald, who owns Jackson Street Press in Charles City.

National Police Week this year is officially May 13 to May 19, although events began on Saturday.

The 38th Annual National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service will begin at 11 a.m. EDT Wednesday, and the Roll Call of Heroes will read off the names of 228 peace officers who lost their lives during the line of duty in 2018.

The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial sits in a three-acre park with a reflecting pool that is surrounded by walkways.

Walls are erected next to the foot paths where passers-by can see and touch the names of loved ones no longer with them. There have been 371 names added to the wall this year, including 158 officers who were killed during 2018.

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