Floor Speech: Honoring Capitol Police Officer Vernon J. Alston, Jr.

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) went to the Senate floor to remember Capitol Police Officer Vernon J. Alston, Jr., a Delawarean who passed away January 23, 2016, at the age of 44. Officer Alston, a U.S. Army Reserve veteran and 10-year member of the National Guard, grew up in Dover, Del. and commuted from Magnolia, Del. to the U.S. Capitol each day to report for duty. He served as a Capitol Police officer for 20 years.

Senator Carper’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below: 

“Mr. President, I’d like to set aside a few minutes today to reflect on the life of Capitol Police Officer Vernon J. Alston, Jr. of Magnolia, Delaware. Vernon passed away on January 23 at the age of 44 after helping a neighbor shovel snow in the aftermath of a heavy snowfall on the East Coast. 

“In life and in death, Vernon epitomized the best of our country’s selfless men and women who put their lives on the line to protect and serve the U.S. Capitol and its community.

“The U.S. Capitol Police are some of America’s finest men and women in uniform. Each day, these officers perform perhaps the most important jobs here on the Hill: protecting the thousands of men and women who work at the Capitol complex, as well as the millions of visitors who travel here each year in hopes of seeing our democracy at work.

“Whether these officers are patrolling the grounds to prevent or detect mischief, investigating suspicious activity, or responding to an emergency, their mission is the same: to protect the symbol of our country’s democracy.

“Their mission is not one that comes without sacrifice. Just 17 years ago, in 1998, two of our Capitol Police officers were killed in the line of duty when a gunman opened fire in the Capitol.

“In his service with the U.S. Army Reserve, the National Guard, and the Capitol Police force, Vernon consistently exhibited unwavering courage, devotion to duty, and above all else, honor. In the way he lived his life – and how we remember him – Vernon reminds each of us how good we can be.

“Vernon Alston was born in 1971 to Barbara Alston and Vernon Alston, Sr. in Vincenza, Italy, where his father, Vernon Sr., was stationed with the U.S. Air Force. Vernon spent the first 10 years of his life in Italy before his father was transferred to Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Delaware. There, Vernon attended grade school on the Air Force base and later graduated from Dover High School. He went on to attend Howard University in Washington, D.C., where he graduated in 1995.

“Vernon was still a student at Howard University when he answered the call of duty, following in the footsteps of his father, Vernon Sr., and his grandfather, David Alston, a U.S. Army World War II veteran. In 1991, he joined the U.S. Army Reserve, and served as an Army reservist until 1994. After graduating from college in 1995, Vernon joined the District of Columbia Army National Guard and served as a member of the National Guard for 10 additional years.

“After graduation from Howard, Vernon applied to become a U.S. Capitol Police officer. He began his service with the Capitol Police force in 1996. For the next 20 years, he protected and served the Capitol complex and its community, including Senators, Representatives, as well as members of their families and staffs, along with the millions of visitors who come here every year.

“Vernon’s positive energy and attitude made a lasting impression with his Capitol police colleagues. In the latter part of his career, Vernon was stationed at the Capitol Power Plant, which provides steam and chilled water used to heat and cool buildings across the Capitol complex. There, it was his responsibility to check visitors and staff at the door and work to keep the facility safe and secure around the clock.

“According to his colleagues, he always found time to ask others how they were doing, and he possessed the all-too-rare quality of being a patient listener. One of his fellow officers described Vernon as a “beacon of positivity,” and no matter the mission – an early morning for a Presidential Inauguration, or a late night for a State of the Union address – Vernon always wore a smile on his face.

“In 2008, while Vernon was on the job and patrolling the Capitol grounds, he ran into a woman named Nicole Davis. Despite attending Howard University at the same time, Vernon and Nicole never really knew each other. But on that fateful day in 2008, Vernon recalled seeing Nicole at Howard years ago. Over a decade after their passing encounters at Howard, Vernon and Nicole became reacquainted – and six months later, aboard the Spirit of Washington, they became husband and wife.

“After getting married, Vernon and Nicole moved to Magnolia, Delaware and commuted to Washington, D.C. for work each day – Nicole to the Smithsonian National Zoo and Vernon to the Capitol. Together, they have five children; Brittany, a sophomore at Delaware State University, Yasmeen, a senior at Polytech High School in Delaware, Brandon, a sophomore at Paul Public Charter School in Washington, D.C., and Israel and Breyden, both in preschool.

“In closing, I’d like to tell a story Vernon’s mother shared with me. When he was in fourth grade, Vernon’s principal told Vernon’s parents that he was a great example for his peers. The principal said that he knew he would come to learn about Vernon’s accomplishments and achievements in the newspapers years down the road. It’s clear through the outpouring of love and accounts of so many others after Vernon’s untimely passing that his principal was right.

“Today I rise to commemorate Vernon, to celebrate his life, and to offer his family, friends and fellow officers our support and our deepest sympathy on their tragic loss.”