When law enforcement officers die in the line of duty, it is up to survivors to keep their memory alive.
Goldsboro police officer Marco Kalkbrenner is setting out to do just that.
Donning the badge number of the late Maj. Jay Memmelaar, of the Goldsboro Police Department, Kalkbrenner will cycle more than 500 miles through two states to honor his friend and mentor.
“We started doing fun runs and stuff in (Memmelaar’s) memory because he was a bike rider,” Kalkbrenner said. “He enjoyed bike riding, mud runs and 5Ks — he did all that stuff.
“Last year, the ride stopped at Goldsboro to do a little ceremony for Maj. Memmelaar, and that’s when I looked at it and thought I could do something like this.”
Kalkbrenner originally became interested in the Law Enforcement United’s bicycle ride to Washington, D.C., after the group stopped in Goldsboro last year to honor Memmelaar, who died in the line of duty in 2017.
Law Enforcement United is a nonprofit organization that was founded in 2009 in Virginia as a way to honor officers who died in the line of duty and to provide support to surviving family members.
The organization includes members from federal, state and local law enforcement agencies across the United States who seek to raise awareness and monetary support for programs and organizations, such as the Officer Down Memorial Page and the Spirit of Blue Foundation.
Kalkbrenner will join more than 500 bicyclists with Law Enforcement United on a ride to the nation’s capital, arriving May 12 to kick off Police Week and commemorate Peace Officers Memorial Day on May 15.
Riders are diligently training to bike more than 250 miles from Chesapeake and Roanoke, Virginia; Reading, Pennsylvania; Atlantic City, New Jersey; and Cumberland, Maryland, over a three-day period.
But, many cyclists will travel even farther and longer to join the ride to Washington.
Kalkbrenner will wear number 487, Memmelaar’s badge number, during his journey from Raleigh to Washington.
Maj. Jay Russell Memmelaar Jr. suffered a fatal heart attack on Feb. 16, 2017. He served the Goldsboro Police Department for 25 years, and is survived by his wife, Irene Memmelaar, and two children, Chris and Maria.
Irene Memmelaar remembers her husband for his leadership and guidance. He was more than just a police officer, she said. He was a husband, father, son, friend and coach, and was involved in many aspects of Goldsboro’s community.
“I want him to be remembered as a servant — that’s where his heart was,” Irene Memmelaar said. “He was a godly man, he was a man who honored his pledges, he always took care of his responsibilities, and he went above and beyond and had incredible balance in his life.”
Kalkbrenner, who retired as master sergeant from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, remembers meeting Memmelaar after Sgt. Michael Sweet recruited Kalkbrenner to join the Goldsboro Police Department. Kalkbrenner said Memmelaar helped him during the hiring process at the police department, and was an excellent basic law enforcement training instructor.
“He really wanted me to be a part of the team,” Kalkbrenner said. “There were a lot of things that happened along the way that were barriers, and he helped me through those barriers.”
Memmelaar died during Kalkbrenner’s time taking BLET classes at Wayne Community College. Kalkbrenner remembers how the major made the coursework manageable.
“The way his style of teaching, he made it more relatable,” Kalkbrenner said. “His style of teaching was great, he was good at his job, he loved his job, and when he taught us, you could tell his passion.
“He just loved the job and projected that to us in teaching.”
Memmelaar, who was an avid runner and cyclist, participated in many mud runs with his daughter, Kalkbrenner said. After he died, his students in the BLET program began participating in 5Ks and mud runs in his honor.
When Kalkbrenner decided he wanted to participate in the Road to Hope bike ride to Washington, he made sure to ask Memmelaar’s family for permission to wear his badge number.
“It’s a huge honor,” Irene Memmelaar said. “My husband loved what he did as a police officer for 25 years. He put a lot into his job, he put a lot into the city of Goldsboro, and for him to be remembered even through something like a bike ride is something that touches my heart.”
“He was a man who left huge footprints, and it’s going to take a lot to be able to honestly fill the shoes he left. He’s missed by many. I miss him. I miss his opinion and guidance.”
The road to D.C.
Kalkbrenner’s journey to Washington begins in Raleigh on May 6. From there, Kalkbrenner will bike to with other cyclists to Chesapeake, Virginia. Over the three-day ride, the cyclists will travel through Greenville, Elizabeth City and other smaller cities at a pace of 14 to 16 mph, Kalkbrenner said.
Once Kalkbrenner and other cyclists make it to Chesapeake, they will then join hundreds of other cyclists on the road to Washington. Local law enforcement in each county the group travels through will escort them to each line.
“Not really any mountains around here, but a lot of hills,” Kalkbrenner said. “It’s all going to be on the road, law enforcement escorted.”
Support teams, who provide food and drinks, maintenance teams and medical teams will join the cyclists during the trip.
Preparation for the trek
In preparation for the 500-mile bike ride, Kalkbrenner bikes at least 5 to 10 miles daily on top of work. On some days, Kalkbrenner will cycle at least 30 miles when possible.
However, weather is one obstacle slowing him down lately.
“Because the weather has been so bad, I have a stationary bike that I set up,” Kalkbrenner said. “You put your bike up there and you just ride. I just watch TV and ride for a couple hours.
“It’s not the same thing as riding on the road, but because the weather has been so bad that’s all I could do.”
Kalkbrenner is raising money on his GoFundMe page The Road To Hope for the ride, which includes a $1,500 entrance fee, uniform, biking equipment and hotel rooms. The entrance fee goes toward organizations that provide monetary support and awareness for officers who died in the line of duty and their families. Donations can be made at https://bit.ly/2Z9C2X0.
This Saturday, he will participate in a 30-mile ride in Chesapeake to raise money for Road to Hope. Kalkbrenner said the group ride will give him more experience traveling in large groups of cyclists. He said traveling alone on a bike is very different from traveling in a group, which requires more communication.
Until then, Kalkbrenner trains by himself, which he said offers a time for reflection and relaxation.
“I call it be free — it’s just you and your bike,” Kalkbrenner said. “You gotta watch out for the motorists, that’s the scariest part. These cars just fly by you without any regards.
“It gets boring, but it’s relaxing, and I gotta look at the end goal, and that’s what gets me through it.”