Remembering Special Agent in Charge David LeValley: A Good Man of the Greatest Faith
Remarks prepared for delivery.
Calm, cool, and collected.
Steady. Level-headed. Even-tempered in the face of adversity.
Modest and unassuming.
Universally liked and respected.
Kind. Caring. And gracious.
Qualities we all aspire to, but which we rarely achieve, especially all at once. Qualities embodied by the man you’ve known for years, and the man I’ve had the opportunity to work with over the past 10 months. A good man who gave his all for his country, and for the people he served. A man who exemplified the highest and best qualities of faith, hope, and love.
On the morning of 9/11, Dave was driving to work, about four blocks from the World Trade Center, when the first plane hit. Without a second thought, he drove as close as he could get, parked his car, put on his helmet and his bulletproof vest, and went to see how he could help.
When the first tower collapsed, Dave ducked into the archway of a building. He later said that he thought to himself at that moment, “This is how I’m going to go. This is how I’ll meet my maker.” He also said he wasn’t afraid. He wasn’t afraid because he was a man of faith.
And in the days and weeks following the attacks, Dave kept that faith. Just as he kept his faith in the rule of law, in justice, and in doing what was right.
Most people can’t imagine what those first responders lived through. What they saw, what they endured. How they felt. Most people can’t imagine the sense of duty it must have taken to go to work at those scenes, day after day, night after night, month after month.
And we’re only now beginning to understand the long-term impact of that work on all of our first responders. We’re only now just beginning to understand the sacrifices they made so long ago.
But it’s not surprising that Dave would embody that sense of duty, that strong character. He was the quiet leader. The leader who stands back and lets others shine. He was the first to give credit, and the last to take it. He was a leader who simply did the work, without fanfare, without need for recognition. He cultivated excellence in everyone around him, leading by example, inspiring his team to bring their best selves to the fight every day.
And even before he rose through the ranks, he was a leader as a case agent—showing new agents the ropes with a rare combination of vision and attention to detail. He knew how he wanted to run his cases, and he did it very, very well.
And as good a case agent as he was, it’s clear he was an even better friend. When you were Dave’s friend, you were in it for life. He wasn’t about to let you go. Most of the people sitting here today have known Dave for decades. And that kind of enduring friendship is rare in today’s day and age.
People closest to Dave knew that he was ill—that he’d been ill for some time. But Dave was never one for drama. He wasn’t self-pitying. He had no time for himself. He wanted to know how you were. He wasn’t a talker; he was a listener. Just last week, he called his fellow agent Greg Ehrie to see how he was faring as the new SAC of our Newark Field Office. Dave didn’t want to talk about himself. He just wanted to reach out and touch base with an old friend.
Greg shared a story that says a lot about the kind of guy Dave was. He said that a few days after the 9/11 attacks, he and Dave were walking the streets down near Ground Zero, searching for survivors, sifting through remains, doing whatever they could to help.
And they heard noise—a lot of noise—which down at Ground Zero, in those days, was pretty unusual. So they followed the source of the noise to an abandoned bar. They walked in and came face to face with a room full of cops and first responders who were, as Greg put it, “liberating” the contents of the bar.
And when they walked in, the bar got so silent you could’ve heard a pin drop. These guys were looking at Greg and Dave. And Greg and Dave were looking right back. Greg thought to himself, “What in the world have we walked into, and how are we getting out?” And without missing a beat, Dave walked right up to the counter, and calmly said, “Two Budweisers, please.” And just like that, in his usual way, he became one of the guys, part of the team. Knowing Dave, he probably left a $20 behind, to cover his tab.
That’s the man you all knew. A true team player. It wasn’t ever about him, or what he needed. It was always about what he could do to help.
This is a man who had a lot of friends in the NYPD—back in the mid-‘90s. Now, those of you who know the history of the FBI and the NYPD know that that’s really saying something. That relationship hasn’t always been the way it is these days. Back then, there was no love lost between the FBI and the NYPD. But Dave managed to break through the barriers, just by being himself, naturally and comfortably, without an agenda.
He was always going where he was most needed, where he could do the most good, even at the greatest potential cost. He served as a U.S. Marine Corps officer. He was a police officer in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. As an agent, he took down violent transnational gangs and drug traffickers. And he somehow made it all look easy.
In Isaiah, chapter six, verse eight, the Lord calls for someone to serve him. And Isaiah raises his hand and says, “Here I am. Send me.”
Here I am. Send me.
God wasn’t calling on Isaiah to perform some simple task. He wasn’t calling him to service to make his life easier, to make his road smoother. A call to service isn’t designed for comfort and convenience. True service is a test. It’s an act of faith.
And Dave had faith. He had faith in people. He was raised by people of faith. He had faith in the work he was called to do. He nurtured that faith. He shared it. And he lived it, every day.
Time and again, Dave raised his hand and said, “Here I am. Send me.”
In the words of a friend, he loved deeply, and he gave of himself wholly and equally to all. And so as people of faith, though our hearts ache this morning, we trust that Dave awaits us in a better place.
And it just might be that God needed a good man for a tough job, and that Dave once again raised his hand and said, “Here I am. Send me.”
* * *
Dave was a Marine. And as the saying goes, once a Marine, always a Marine.
There’s a phrase that illustrates what it means to become a Marine.
“Earned, never given.”
And anyone who has been to boot camp knows that becoming a Marine is most definitely earned.
In boot camp, they tell you that you won’t be given anything other than the opportunity to prove you’ve got the courage to join an unbroken line of warriors that stretched back more than 240 years.
You’ll be measured by your willingness to stand shoulder to shoulder. You’ll be judged not by what you have, but by what you give. You’ll be tested not on the basis of strength, but honor. And what you earn is yours to keep, forever.
Dave embodied that creed to its fullest. He worked at it. He worked to earn the respect and friendship of all those around him. He worked to keep people safe from harm. He worked to be the best man he could be. He worked for it, and he earned it, day after day after day.
Dave walked the walk. He lived the words Semper Fi—always faithful—words that denote the loyalty and dedication every Marine has for Corps and country.
It’s worth pausing for just a moment to consider that important motto. Not sometimes faithful. Not usually faithful. But always, always faithful.
Dave had faith in the FBI. Faith in the people he served. Faith in his family and friends. Faith in his God. Even on his darkest days. Even when he was fighting for his life.
The people who worked with Dave over the years had faith in who he was, and what he stood for. They would have followed him anywhere. And I can only imagine that Dave would have grinned quietly at that, with his usual humility.
In the FBI family, we talk a lot about courage and bravery and selflessness. We talk about the heroism of law enforcement.
But heroism comes in many different forms. There’s the heroism of those who rush headlong into peril without a second thought for their own well-being. Because every special agent recognizes that making the choice to be an agent might one day require the ultimate sacrifice for a complete stranger.
But there’s also a quiet heroism that cannot be discounted. The heroism of the person who simply does his job with dignity and dedication, with a devotion to service. Service at all costs—even when the price to be paid comes much later, down the road.
Back at FBI Headquarters and in every field office, there is a Wall of Honor, where the names of fallen agents are inscribed. In time, we will add Dave’s name to that wall. And when we look up and see it, we will remember him as a dedicated agent, a devoted family man, and a loving and loyal friend. We will remember him as a committed public servant and a courageous leader. We will remember him as a good man of the greatest faith.
To Dave’s family—to his parents, Gerry and James; to his siblings, John, Sharon, and Paul; and to his wife Denise and their children Krista, Justin, and Nathan—we thank you for sharing Dave with us. He will always be part of the FBI family, just as you are part of our FBI family. The FBI today is better and stronger because of what Dave gave to all of us.
Thank you. It was an honor to be here with all of you.