Outpouring of Support

NJSPBA Special Services Team lends support at trooper’s funeral that brings a ray of sunshine to Pennsylvania State Police

By Mitchell Krugel 

Pennsylvania State Troopers Association President Dave Kennedy didn’t even need to make the call. He knew that many of his
4,500 members across the state would be coming to Erie, Pennsylvania, on June 27 for the funeral for State Trooper Jacques F.
Rougeau Jr., who was fatally shot in the line of duty on June 17.

As soon as the funeral was scheduled, Kennedy’s phone rang. NJ State PBA Special Projects Coordinator John Hulse, the leader of the union’s special services team, was calling. Support for the troopers coming from as much as an eight-hour drive away, as well as family members and officers from across the country, would be welcome and needed.

“When we had the tragedy, John called me and said, ‘What time do we need to be there?’” Kennedy related. “What we had to do, we couldn’t do without them. They come up for us and they do it without question.”

The NJSPBA Special Services Team, which on this run included Montgomery Township Local 355 State Delegate Joe Sles and Hopewell Local 342 State Delegate Jim Hoffman, even went above and beyond its usual response for Trooper Rougeau. The team provided support at both the visitation, which went for six hours on June 26, and the funeral on June 27.

And Hulse marveled at the way the team embraced the extra duty.

“I don’t even have to ask anybody to do anything,” he praised. “The doors of the truck open and these guys go to work. They set it up, they take care of everybody. They’ve really become so good at what they do. It’s not routine, but there’s a program that we follow.”

And it came on the day of the funeral when the rain never let up. Given the way Rougeau was lost, faith might wax poetic that the angels were crying throughout the whole ceremony. Or so it seemed to Hulse.

Kennedy observed how even though rain poured nonstop on the PBA Special Services Team, the support never wavered. And after feeding what he called a staggering number of people, Kennedy tried to describe what that meant to the Pennsylvania State Police.

“Those guys feed everybody, and they don’t ask for anything. So I know I can speak for the Pennsylvania State Police and say our gratitude is immeasurable,” he professed. “We lean on each other, we take care of each other, and I hope I get to repay them for their kindness that they’ve shown for us. It’s humbling when you see that kind of outpouring of graciousness in your time of need.”

Amid the heaviness of the occasion and the heartbreak of the loss, Hulse said he saw something equally gracious and humbling from the Pennsylvania State Police.

It’s that same camaraderie that compels the NJSPBA Special Services Team to travel across the country to support departments
when they suffer a line-of-duty death.

“They’re a good example of the kind of esprit de corps you would expect from an organization like that,” Hulse complimented of the Pennsylvania State Police. “Without issue or the politics that comes into it, they know how to honor their people in a very clean, efficient and honorable way.”

Kennedy said he wondered if the drive from PBA headquarters in Woodbridge to Erie might be a little far for the PBA team to make. But then he reported how Hulse told him the team had made a run to Colorado in February. And Kennedy remembered how the PBA went the distance in March 2022 – twice – to lend support at the funerals for Troopers Martin Mack III and Branden Sisca, who were killed by a suspected drunk driver.

And that’s precisely why the special services team has flourished with its support.

“The greatest compliment that we get is, ‘Terrible that we’re here, but we see you guys everywhere. Thank you so much for what the PBA does,’” Hulse shared. “That’s due in large part to [NJSPBA President] Pat Colligan, who really expanded this program and let us go out to show everybody the fellowship.”

The other great compliment the PBA has experienced is seeing more and more trailers show up on these occasions. Some have even formed a coalition with the PBA, like the one that has occurred with Delaware County, Pennsylvania, FOP Lodge 27. Delaware County was with the PBA in Erie.

“Now, we’re all taking care of their members. And it’s a great thing, because that’s what it’s all about,” Hulse added. “It’s like we remind everybody who comes up to the trailer. We tell them, ‘Always remember that you take care of each other first, because if you don’t take care of each other, you’re not going to do well taking care of anybody else.’”

In Erie on June 27, the rain continued to fall, but the much-needed cups of coffee kept pouring. Along with countless bottles of water, the breakfast sandwiches that have become one of the new favorites the PBA provides and, of course, Hulse’s renowned Dirty Water Dogs.

“Best DWDs I’ve ever had,” Kennedy recalled. “They came out, they did what they do, and it’s awesome. It’s humbling. No matter whether it’s raining, it’s a little ray of sunshine amid all of it.”