PEORIA, Ariz. - It's a meaningful act of remembrance for unthinkable acts that happen far too often across America and Arizona. Cops on Top is a nationwide group that hikes mountains to remember fallen officers.
Their motto is, "we will never forget." And topping peaks across the world helps them keep their fallen friends' and colleagues' memories alive.
It's also part of Peoria police officer Paul Herman’s mantra as he hikes.
“I’ve been an officer for 19 years and unfortunately, I know personally some of the fallen officers throughout the years," Hermans said.
While spending six days on a guided hike on Africa’s tallest mountain, he hiked about six hours a day. The group started at 7,000 feet and ended on top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, around 19,400 feet.
“At that elevation, they say it is roughly about 50 percent of oxygen compared to sea level," Hermans said.
It’s been a personal and physical goal for Hermans and so much more than that.
“To hike to the highest point in Africa, Kilimanjaro, to honor fallen officers, it’s just a great feeling," he said.
Hermans has been preparing since January, making sure he was ready for the harsh climate changes in June.
“On summit day we start at 1 a.m., and while you’re hiking throughout the night and that morning there, it was cold and windy," he said. "Temperatures were probably around zero degrees.”
It was a worthy journey, in honor of the brave heroes whose lives were taken too soon.
“And you finally get close to the top," he said. "You know the summit is near. You can see the sign. It’s a feeling that you can’t describe until you’re there.”
The Cops on Top hiking group is open to anyone who would like to honor fallen officers in that way. For more information on how to join, click click here.