Mark Voeltz understands firsthand the dangers police officers face on a daily basis.
Voeltz is an officer in the Town of Fishkill, Dutchess County, and while he’s at work, his son, Mark Jr., manages the family business, Mark’s Towing on Claremont Avenue in Thornwood.
Now, Voeltz the police officer and the automotive side of the family have collaborated on a special tribute to fallen police officers.
Voeltz purchased a 2007 Crown Victoria, which had been used by the Connecticut State Police, and several volunteers offered their time and materials for about a month to fix and decorate the car.
Last August, he completed the project, which he named Wheels of Honor, to recognize police officers killed in the line of duty throughout the United States.
“Being a police officer, what we do every day out there is dangerous and the cops who are being killed in the line of duty should really be recognized for what they do every day,” Voeltz said.
The names of each of the 140 police officers killed in the line of duty throughout the United States, beginning last year, are on the car. So is an image of St. Michael on the car hood with the Policeman’s Prayer on the front. Painted on the vehicle are the color guards of the New York State and Westchester County departments, a picture of the World Trade Center and a police officer kneeling on one knee holding an American flag.
There’s also a logo on the back of the refurbished car around the names of the fallen police officers.
“It’s not how these officers died, it’s how they lived their lives,” it states.
The car has been driven to a variety of events and observances. It was first used for the funeral for Ulster County Sheriff’s Deputy Kerry Winters, killed in a water diving training accident, Voeltz noted.
“We had the car parked on the front lawn of the funeral home with the Ulster County Sheriff’s Department dive truck,” he recalled. “It was there two nights for the wake. On the last night, we’re all lined up standing there and the wife (of the deceased officer) and the two little kids walked out of the funeral home, got in the police truck to drive them home. They stopped halfway out of the driveway. They got out of the truck, walked over to the police car and they were looking with a flashlight for their father’s name on the car.”
“I get satisfaction out of it by seeing the reaction from the family members when we attend these funerals,” Voeltz added.
The car was driven to the funerals of two New York State troopers, a funeral for a fallen Pittsburgh police officer, wakes and a 9/11 memorial ceremony in Dutchess County. It has also provided escorts for the Westchester County Motorcycle Unit.
Voeltz said he also wants the Wheels of Honor to be seen at law enforcement functions such as parades, memorial services and police benevolent association outings. If he is unable to drive the car to an event, he has friends who are police officers that do so.
Wheels of Honor volunteers have also participated in fundraisers, including 10-13 parties – the radio code for when a cop is in serious trouble – to assist families of fallen or seriously injured police officers.
“Everything’s funded by me, the hotels, the meals, the fuel, the insurance, the car,” he said.
The public reaction to the Wheels of Honor has been “phenomenal,” Voeltz said.
Voeltz has is forming a charity that will allow Wheels of Honor to accept tax deductible donations. He is also planning to use some of the donations to purchase a new second car. Once the second car has been decorated, Voeltz plans to donate the first car to the Law Enforcement Museum in Washington, D.C.
When Wheels of Honor its nonprofit status, Voeltz intends to provide donated money to the families of fallen police officers.
The car was also a popular attraction at the recently-held Westchester County Gun Show in White Plains, he said.
“(People) can’t thank us enough,” Voeltz said, adding that he has received letters of appreciation. He said one of those letters came from the Pittsburgh Police Department, noting the trip took about seven hours each way.
“These cops need recognition, more than they’re getting,” Voeltz said.
For more information about Wheels of Honor, call 914-769-6807, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.wheelsofhonor.com.