Through the Front Door: What It Means to Celebrate a Life

I woke up yesterday to both heroic and horrifying news—horrifying news that there was another mass shooting and this time a little closer to home here in Southern California at the Borderline Bar & Grill (Thousand Oaks, CA). The killer of twelve people (and injuring many others) including Ventura County Sheriff’s Sergeant Ron Helus doesn’t need any more attention, so I’m choosing to focus on the heroes.

country music bar

Sgt. Ron Helus was among the 12 people killed when a gunman opened fire inside Borderline Bar & Grill. (Ventura County Sheriff’s Office)

In a news conference, Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean stood at the mic in front of media and the world and said, “A highway patrol officer and a sheriff sergeant made entry in the Borderline because they heard shots being fired and felt there might be additional victims inside. Upon going through the front door, the sheriff sergeant was struck multiple times with gunfire… Sergeant Helus died at the…”

At that point Sheriff Dean began to tear up, revealing his humanity and his broken heart.

former marine

Sheriff Geoff Dean briefs the press. (Screenshot Fox News broadcast)

Dropping his head, he cleared this throat, and attempted to compose himself, but his voice continued to betray him and crack as he delivered news of yet another law enforcement official giving the ultimate sacrifice…

“[T]he sergeant passed away at the hospital about an hour ago,” the sheriff painfully disclosed.

front door

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Walter Shinn)

Sergeant Ron Helus was a 29-year veteran who was set to retire next year—next year. The irony and tragedy of that is not lost on me. He is survived by his wife and son.

I am reminded of a moment last year as I watched “The Academy Awards” broadcast on TV when an actress was standing at the mic, holding her Oscar in front of the audience and the world. Delivering her Best Supporting Actress’s acceptance speech, she said something that made me literally gasp while seated on my couch, “What?!”

She said, “I became an artist, and thank God I did, because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life.”

Reality check, Hollywood.

educating self-proclaimed experts

Ventura County Sheriff’s Sergeant Ron Helus may not have been celebrated, but he knew how to celebrate life by serving life. And further, he knew not only how to live a life, but to give a life.

As other law enforcement officers do, he saw danger and ran to rather than away. He went through the front door.

It wasn’t a studio set, there were no cameras, no “cut.” No applause. After 29 years of service—of celebrating life—he gave his life. The Good Book says there is no greater love that man can have, than by laying down his own life for others.

There is no applause loud enough for you. I thank God because you truly are a profession that celebrates what it means to live a life.

Law enforcement officers celebrate life by protecting it, by serving it, sometimes giving the ultimate sacrifice.

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Caskets of Deputy Theresa King and Deputy Patrick Rorher who were killed in the line of duty, July 2018. (Photo courtesy Heidi Hogan)

This knowledge is not lost on me. There is no applause loud enough for you. I thank God because you truly are a profession that celebrates what it means to live a life.

To Sheriff Dean, thank you for letting us hear your cracking voice and revealing your strong-broken heart, letting us see and hear what you couldn’t contain.

Ron Helus

(Graphics courtesy Rose Borisow GrafX)

And ultimately to the family and friends of Sheriff Sergeant Ron Helus, I offer my broken heart, joined with yours, as I celebrate his life.


Pamela Capone is the author of “I Punched Myself in the Eye” and the soon-to-be-released, “The Little Love That Could.” She lives in Southern California with her husband, John. They have two fabulous adult children together, Joey and Cassie, and one amazing grandson, Brooks.