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THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Tony. Thank you for that warm welcome, warm introduction. To Tony Chapa, to Mary Cox, and most especially to all of the outstanding members of HAPCOA — the Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association — thank you for your service. We are proud of each and every one of you and your families. (Applause.)
And I just left the Oval Office a few minutes ago, so allow me to also bring appreciation and admiration from a great champion of law enforcement and a great champion of all of the men and women of HAPCOA. I bring greetings from the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump. (Applause.) We are both grateful for what each and every one of you do.
And as I begin, let me — let me offer my congratulations to all the honorees in this afternoon’s event. To Manuel de la Rosa, to Nelson Rivera, to Cathy Sanz, to Omar Lopez — congratulations on your very fitting and very deserving honor today at this event. (Applause.)
And I just had the opportunity to visit with Victor Avila and the parents of the late Jaime Zapata. You know, the Bible says that no greater love has a man than this, that he should lay down his life for his friends. And we think of Jaime, and we’re honored to be with Mom and Dad today. And I want to assure you that we will never forget the service and sacrifice of your courageous son. Join me in congratulating the Gold Medal winners one more time. (Applause.)
And let me say it is a particular honor for me to be here to bestow the next award, and I think your last one of the day, on an extraordinarily dedicated law enforcement professional.
The Aguila Statue Award is the highest honor this organization bestows. To qualify, a nominee, I’m told, must demonstrate a commitment to public safety and to the principles of this organization. He must be an individual who goes above and beyond the call of duty, blazes a new path for Hispanic American law enforcement officers, and is a role model in the Hispanic American community. And let me tell you, you could have chosen no one better, in my eyes, than Special Agent in Charge, Hector Hernandez. Congratulations, Hector. (Applause.)
And I have to tell you, when I heard Hector was getting this award, I just said, “Can I come?” (Laughter.) Because while he currently is now leading the Vice Presidential Protective Detail — in fact, he’s the first Hispanic American in history to be the Special Agent in Charge of the Vice Presidential detail. (Applause.) I have to tell you he’s been a fan favorite of the Pence family since we signed on to this job because of who he is and because of his character, because of his courage, because of his professionalism. And it’s my great honor to be here today.
But I know I’m also here on behalf of the team of more than 300 Special Agents and Uniformed Officers that he leads on a very regular basis. It is remarkable to see the kind of leadership that Hector Hernandez represents and embodies each and every day. He’s a professional to his very core. Ever the Secret Service Agent, he shows very little emotion except when we provoke him with a bad joke — (laughter) — or a family story. He’s also a man of personal courage.
And those of you that know Hector well know that he’s also a man of faith. And I say of him and I say of all of you who wear the uniform in this room — and it’s always noteworthy to me that the only time that the Nazarene in the Old Book ever said that he was amazed was when he encountered a law enforcement officer.
It’s a wonderful story. It took place on a stream in a little called Capernaum. And the Bible records that Jesus was walking from the synagogue back to Peter’s mother’s home, and he was approached by a centurion — a law enforcement officer of his day. And the officer, as the Bible records, walked up to him and spoke of a young one in his home who was ill. And as Jesus began to walk in his direction, he said to him, “I’m not worthy to have you come under my roof.” He said, “Rather…” he said, “I’m a man under authority.” He said, “I tell one to do this and they do it. I tell another to do this and they do it.” And he said, “You only say the word and they’ll be healed.”
And in that moment — and you can go read it for yourself — it says that Jesus was amazed. He was amazed as he saw the faith, as he saw the humility, as he saw the orientation to authority that he found in that law enforcement officer.
And I want to tell you, since the first time that I saw his service and saw his character, and as we witness every day in the service and sacrifices each and every one of you make, I’m amazed — I’m amazed at the job you do every day. I truly am.
And we’re amazed at the job each and every one of you do. The way you consider our lives more important than your own, it’s a truly humbling thing.
But the truth is, people that have known Hector Hernandez for a long time know that it really is emblematic of his truly remarkable life and career. He’s no stranger to all of you. I know that he was actually president of this organization from 2008 to 2010.
But his story began long before that. Native of El Paso, Texas. Comes from a long line of champion boxers. We were talking about it not long ago on a visit to Mexico for an inauguration. I got the whole story. And I also learned about his youthful rebellion when he decided to be a wrestler instead of a boxer. (Laughter.)
And, man, was he ever a wrestler. It wasn’t just a hobby. I actually pulled the records on this. He won the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference championship three times, earned All-American honors twice. Not only competed on the U.S. national wrestling team during their tour of Russia, he also won the national championship that year, pinning three of his opponents in less than 20 seconds — the three quickest pins in the entire tournament. And he did it all while he was double majoring in political science and sociology, and later earned a master’s degree at New Mexico Highlands University.
I think that’s worth a round of applause. That’s pretty impressive right there. (Applause.)
After he graduated, Hector found his calling, and it was among all of you, in law enforcement. His work ethic and his talent made him rise like a rocket. He began as an investigator in the Office of the Inspector General at HHS. He was recruited by the United States Secret Service. He started in the Dallas Field Office and later moved to Washington, D.C., where he joined the ranks of the protection — Presidential Protection Detail.
Throughout his career, he has been at crucial moments in the life of the nation and he’s distinguished himself with his courage and his energetic response in challenging situations.
After the Oklahoma City Bombing, he and three other Secret Service agents literally dug through the rubble of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building to recover the remains of six colleagues whose lives were lost in that attack. I’m told that Hector’s testimony in Timothy McVeigh’s trial proved crucial in securing a conviction.
And he also served his country with distinction on that dark day, the 11th day of September 2001. He was working midnight shift at the White House after President Bush had returned from Florida to demonstrate the strength of our nation. And the President was in the White House, but when an unidentified aircraft began to approach the White House, it was Hector who rushed in and sped the President and the First Lady to safety.
In addition to leading the Secret Service training academy, he has actually served three Presidents: President Bill Clinton, President George W. Bush, as I mentioned, and President Barack Obama. And today, Hector is a member of what’s known as the Senior Executive Service, which is a distinction shared by the top 1 percent of federal employees.
He has an extraordinarily incredible and impressive record and only one character flaw that I can identify — (laughter) — and that is that he is an insufferable fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Laughter.) And never lets it — never lets it go unmentioned with this Colts fan from Indianapolis. (Laughter.)
So he’s got an incredible career and well deserving of the award that he’ll receive today. But those of you that know Hector well — and I know so many of you in the room do — know that other than his service and his faith, what matters most in Hector’s life and his family — is his family, rather. And we are so blessed today to be joined by his wonderful wife, Jodi, who deserves a round of applause. (Applause.)
To talk to Hector for more than a couple of minutes is to hear about family, and I know Hector and the family went through a year of highs and lows. He was there when his family bid his mother goodbye and prayed her into glory. And he was there when his unworthy son-in-law, Brett, married his perfect daughter, Sarah. (Laughter.) And they’re also with us today. (Applause.)
(Laughs.) I got to tell you, maybe it was that wrestling career that made you nervous. (Laughter.) But I got to tell you, I’ve seen some nervous dads going into weddings before, but this was a nervous dad. (Laughter.) And — but it was all about his deep love for Sarah and for you and for the whole family.
His son, Samuel, is also with us here today. And we’re delighted. Give this whole family another round of applause for the way they’ve served their country. (Inaudible.) (Applause.)
Hector, you really do represent the best of law enforcement and the best of this country, and you’re an inspiration to men and women in law enforcement. And I hope, through this honor, you’re also an inspiration to men and women in the Hispanic community who either serve in law enforcement today or who aspire to serve in law enforcement today. And we’re grateful for your example.
And the truth is, he is deserving of this award for many reasons — for a record of public service that is truly extraordinary. But I think he’s also deserving of it because he has a heart. To know Hector Hernandez is to know a man who loves his family, and loves his country, and loves his God, and lives that out with integrity each and every day.
And so now it is my distinct privilege — and to no less extent, my joy — to pay a debt of gratitude and a debt of honor that my little family owes, and that all the families that have been the beneficiaries of his service would also, I know, want to be here to share, to present the 2019 Aguila Statue Award of the Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association to Special Agent in Charge, Hector Hernandez. Congratulations, Hector. (Applause.) I’m proud to be with you.