Remembering Two Fallen Agents: The True Meaning of Valor
Memorial Service for Special Agents Christopher Lorek and Stephen Shaw
Remarks prepared for delivery by:
Robert S. Mueller, III
Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation
Quantico, VA, May 21, 2013
Days like this are among the most difficult we face. We struggle to find meaning in such a tragic accident. We struggle to find the words to measure the men we have lost, and what that loss means to their families, to our FBI Family, and to each of us personally.
It has been said that valor is a gift. Those who have it never know for sure until the test comes. And those who have it in one test never know for sure if they will have it when the next test comes.
True and unerring valor was a gift given to both Chris and Steve—a gift that was tested time and again, through their commitment to the FBI, to the Hostage Rescue Team, and to the citizens they served.
Chris and Steve chose to be part of a team that assumes the greatest risk as part of their everyday job. A team that says, “Yes, we will,” without any hesitation. And though that kind of motivation—of service over self, even at the greatest cost—is difficult for some to comprehend, it is who they were—and it was in their very DNA, as it is with every member of HRT.
Perhaps the first word that comes to mind when one thinks of an HRT operator is “confidence.” Confidence in their own abilities…confidence in their brothers in arms…confidence in the success of any given mission. How else does one walk into the face of true danger each and every day?
And yet when an accident such as this happens, we must take a step back and ask “Why?” Perhaps one HRT operator said it best: “We do it because someone has to. We do it because we are the only ones who can. We do it because we want to help those who cannot help themselves.”
When we lose one of our own, we must acknowledge the true impact of the work they do—the impact on the families of those who are lost…and on the colleagues left behind.
I myself did not have the privilege of knowing either Chris or Steve, but in learning about their lives, a clear picture emerges.
Chris was an easygoing perfectionist. He was not afraid to share his opinion, but he was not pushy; he wanted everything to run as smoothly as possible. He was intelligent, thoughtful, and always up for a challenge, with a ready smile on his face. As one of his teammates said, “Chris had a natural sense of humor that comes from sharing high stress and close quarters with the kinds of guys who would join HRT.” Chris served with HRT in Afghanistan, and he was part of the team that rescued 5-year-old Ethan, who was taken hostage in Alabama in February.
Yet it was the women in his life—Jennifer, Abigail, and Madeline—who were his first priority, and he was always eager to return home to them.
Steve started with HRT as a member of Blue Unit. In January, he transferred to Gold Unit, where he was already considered “one of the guys.” Steve was always the first to raise his hand for even the most menial of tasks. He simply wanted to be part of the team, and whatever the team needed, he would handle, and handle with perfection. For all of his qualifications, Steve was a man without ego. He genuinely liked and took an interest in everyone around him, regardless of rank or situation. He was quick to make you feel like you were his best friend…his brother.
He loved being part of HRT, but for Steve, his wife Stella and their children Camille and Vincent were the light of his life—his motivation for the work he was doing.
Like each of the individuals on the Hostage Rescue Team, Chris and Steve walked willingly into places most of us would dare not go. They did things that most of us would dare not do. It is what they believed in. It is what they knew they were put on this earth to do.
That is where true valor lies. Writer Ambrose Bierce once defined valor as “a soldierly compound of vanity, duty, and the gambler’s hope.” A worthy definition of the Hostage Rescue Team, absent, of course, the word “vanity.” Perhaps a more fitting term is “confidence.” But as to the strongest sense of duty and the gambler’s hope—yes. That is HRT.
Valor is not the absence of fear. It is the ability to accept that fear and to forge ahead, without flinching. That is what the members of HRT do each and every day. It is what they have always done. And in spite of the grave loss of two of their own, it is what they will do tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that.
Robert Frost once wrote:
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower,
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day,
Nothing gold can stay.
Today, we say goodbye to men we lost too soon. We say goodbye to men whose life work was not yet complete. Men who had missions to undertake, wives to love, children to raise, and full lives to lead.
Nothing gold can stay.
Today, those words ring true, in the worst way.
I am told that it is HRT superstition never to take a picture before a mission, lest you jinx the mission. Yet if a man’s work paints a picture of who he is, we will carry a picture of Chris and of Steve in our minds from this day forward.
A picture of confidence.
A picture of duty and of dedication.
A picture of valor…and strength in the face of adversity.
A picture that represents the very best of the FBI and its motto of Fidelity, Bravery, and Integrity.
To Chris’s wife and children—Jennifer, Abigail and Madeline; to his mother, Janet; his father, Bill; and his brother, Jason…and to Steve’s wife and children—Stella, Camille, and Vincent; to his mother, Tracy; and his sister, Courtney…we all thank you for sharing both Chris and Steve with us. Please know that you will always, always be part of the FBI Family.