It’s easy to forget — when we see them parked in their cruisers along the highway or directing traffic around an accident scene or hauling a criminal suspect into a courtroom or engaged in any of the hundreds of other public safety duties with which they are tasked — how every minute on the job can be their last.
On Sunday, we got yet another sad reminder that when someone takes on a job in law enforcement — as a state trooper, county sheriff’s deputy, local police officer or corrections officer — they are putting their lives on the line.
Trooper James J. Monda, an 18-year State Police veteran who was serving on a marine detail conducting a dive training exercise on Great Sacandaga Lake, died late Sunday afternoon after he wound up the water during a boat launch and never resurfaced.
The 45-year-old trooper was taken to a hospital in Gloversville, where he was pronounced dead.
He leaves behind his parents and fiance.
Police on Monday gave no further details about how he wound up in the water or what might have actually caused his death — a medical condition, an injury or drowning.
But right now, none of that matters.
What matters is we’ve lost another officer who was serving to protect us.
Marine patrols monitor the waters for drunk and reckless boaters, look out for risky behavior like people not wearing life jackets or swimming in unsafe areas, and they rescue people in need.
It might not be glamorous. But the service they provide is essential to our health and safety.
Same thing with other duties that troopers and other law enforcement officers routinely perform.
The last trooper killed in the line of duty, Trooper Joseph Gallagher, was struck by a drunk driver while helping a stranded motorist on Long Island three years ago. He succumbed to his injuries in March.
Local Trooper Timothy Pratt was killed in Wilton in 2016 after he stepped into traffic while helping a lost tractor-trailer driver on a foggy morning.
Trooper Ross Riley died in Wyoming County in 2013 when he fell from a cliff while training for a rescue.
Others have died in line of duty due to everything from heat stroke, to being electrocuted by a live wire at a car crash, to being kicked by a horse.
Others have lost their lives responding to domestic disputes and other crime scenes.
Ten troopers have died from cancer or other ailments related to their search for victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York City.
About half of the trooper deaths have been caused by some kind of vehicle crash.
Trooper Monda becomes the 140th state trooper to die in the line of duty.
Serving in law enforcement is a dangerous job, and the people who dutifully take on this awesome responsibility do it knowing they might not come back when they walk out the door.
Trooper Monda’s death reminds us once again how much we rely on our law enforcement officers, and how much of a risk they take every day to serve and protect us.
For that, we owe them our respect, our honor and our thanks.