The first time I saw the procession for a police funeral, I was 9 years old.
I remember everything about it.
The flashing lights. The grieving widow. The children saluting their father as he was laid to rest. The hundreds or even thousands of people lining the streets to pay their final respects. The jump of the crowd when the first shots rang out for the 21-gun salute. The wall of American flags as far as the eye could see.
I knew right away that this was something different. It was so special – not in a way that you wanted to see, but in a sobering way. I knew that this man being given his final goodbye was respected not just by those he knew, but by everyone who honored the badge.
Across an entire country.
He was a brother. A father. A husband. A son. A warrior.
A man of the uniform.
That was the first time I remember hearing the call to serve
My father told me to watch as the motorcade procession led his casket through the streets. He sat with me as the news reporters talked about the officer and who he was leaving behind. He told me how serious it was. How dire the situation was when someone killed a police officer. How much respect the country had for our heroes at that time.
I’ll never forget it.
When I was 14, I witnessed my friend’s dad attack him. He was drunk again and his wife had just left him a few months earlier. Angry at the world, he lashed out at the only thing around – his son. Their words started at a normal volume, then quickly escalated to screaming. Then the screaming stopped, and I started hearing the muffled sounds of my friend taking punches to the face and gut. Running to intervene, I managed to throw him off of my friend and we got out of there. I was so mad. How could he take out such hate on a defenseless teenager? And how was he expected to go home to that every day?
That was the second time I remember hearing the call to serve.
When I was 17 and my friends were touring local universities and trying to decide what major they wanted to explore, I was getting involved in the local Police Explorers program. I was talking with a recruiter and figuring out the fastest possible way that I could join the academy and truly answer that call.
When the cool kids called me a snitch, I turned the other cheek. When my mom begged me not to choose such a dangerous career, I looked at her in the eye and told her… “This is what I was born to do.”
There will always be injustice in the world. There will always be the poor, downtrodden who never had a chance. There will always be the families who need a shoulder to cry on after finding out their child was taken too soon. There will always be evil men who will inevitably feel the swift sword of justice.
But there will always be the sheepdog.
My brothers and sisters and I heard that call. And when we answered, we did it for every single person in America.