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Memorial Wall Publication

Memorial Ceremony

“Ceremonies that honor the dead are, in truth, for the living. They remind us of our mortality but also celebrate the lives and memories of those we have loved, trusted and respected. Certainly, we mourn their loss—but we also glory in the knowledge of their extraordinary contribution to our service and to our country.”

—Deputy Director Robert M. Gates
May 1987


Gates at the Memorial Wall_mini
Deputy Director Robert M. Gates speaking at the first Memorial Service in May 1987.

The first annual Memorial Ceremony was held in 1987, 13 years after the Memorial Wall was created. The suggestion to hold a yearly commemoration came from an Agency officer. The idea came to him after he showed his son the Memorial Wall.

At the time of the first ceremony, the Agency was in its 40th year and there were 50 stars on the wall. Deputy Director Robert M. Gates presided. It was a simple event, attended by a small number of Agency officers. The officer who made the suggestion to hold a ceremony said, “…having been born abroad, in a communist country at that, my small contribution to this memorial meeting makes me especially proud of being an officer of this great Agency.”

Each year since then, the Agency has gathered to remember its fallen in a solemn setting closed to the public. Though the themes of the service and sacrifice are constant, the event has changed over the years:

  • In 1990, under Director William H. Webster, non-Agency family members were invited to the ceremony, which until then had been for employees only.
  • In 1995, Director John M. Deutch, had the names of all officers remembered on the Wall, including those still undercover, read aloud, a practice that continues to this day.
  • In 2009, Director Leon E. Panetta presented the family of each fallen officer with a replica of a memorial star. Each keepsake star is carved by Tim Johnston out of the same type of marble used in the Memorial Wall.

Ceremony Preparation_mini
Preparing for the Memorial Ceremony.

The Memorial Ceremony is one of the largest annual events at CIA. It is open only to Agency employees and the family members of our fallen officers.

The ceremony is held in the Headquarters lobby in the late morning. It begins with the audience standing for the presentation of colors by the CIA Honor Guard, the National Anthem, and an invocation or opening prayer.

The Director of the CIA typically presides over the event and delivers remarks. Those comments highlight the sacrifices made by Agency officers in defense of this nation and often profile specific individuals honored with a memorial star. The names of the fallen are then read by four senior Agency officers, representing each Directorate. Following the roll call, a wreath is placed before the Wall. The ceremony concludes with a benediction and the playing of “Taps.”

For more pictures of the memorial ceremony, click here.


Historical Document
Posted: Jul 27, 2010 07:25 AM
Last Updated: Jun 18, 2013 01:04 PM