Although none his immediate family members are law enforcement, Summerdale Police Officer Terry Fent describes himself as a true “Blue Blood”. “My dad owned a service station, and a log of his customers were in law enforcement. I always admired and respected them. Once, an Alabama state trooper gave me a trooper’s hat.  I used to ride around on my Big Wheel and pretend to issue speeding tickets. I watched all the cop shows, like ‘Dragnet, ‘CHiPs’, and Miami Vice’.”

Fent’s career began when he was hired at Robertsdale (Alabama) Police Department, where he served in communications and detention. Over the past fourteen years, he has worked Foley Police Department; the Silverhill Police Department, and Summerdale Police Department.

“I enjoyed every aspect of the job. Just like Joe Friday, I memorized every state statute and departmental policy and procedure,” he said. “I love serving my community. I learned about community policing from the late Chief Bob Williams and Officer Brian Middleton of the Robertsdale Police Department. They established rapport with people, learned their names, and became acquainted with their concerns. I still apply their philosophy when I am interacting with the public. When people know you care, it makes a difference in how they perceive all law enforcement.”

On February 18, 2012, Fent was involved in a traffic crash that nearly ended his career and his life. He had been newly hired at the Summerdale Police Department, and he was on his way to mandated training. “I remember that the weather was inclement that day.  All I saw was a bushy tail. I’m always telling people not to swerve to avoid an animal, but that is exactly what I did,” he said wryly.

The truck ran off the road, and struck a culvert. He was found by two of his fellow officers, who dispatched emergency crews and notified Chief Eddie Ingram. Fent was rushed to USA Medical Center in Mobile. He suffered fractures to his neck and spine, facial lacerations, and internal bruising. After witnessing Fent’s injuries, his family and friends feared the worst. However, Fent’s courageous spirit prevailed.  “At first, I was excited just to be able to wiggle my toes,” he said. “But three days after the crash, the medical staff asked me if I wanted to take a few steps. I replied, “No, I don’t want to take a few steps; I want to walk the whole floor!” He was released from the hospital after only twenty days.

Unfortunately, Fent’s medical expenses were not covered by health insurance. According to Summerdale Police Chief Eddie Ingram, their employees are not eligible for health insurance until they have successfully completed the 90 day probationary period. When this information was revealed, the community united to assist him. The police department set up a benefit fund in his name, and a fish fry was organized to help raise money for his medical expenses. Another fundraiser is scheduled for April 22; it includes a motorcycle ride, live music, and entertainment.

In spite of the fact that he was just seven days away from being eligible for health insurance, Fent has no trace of bitterness or self pity. On the contrary, he hopes that his accident will prevent others from having to go without insurance during their probationary phase.

When this information was revealed, the community united to fund Fent’s medical bills.  They organized a benefit fund in his name and a fish fry to raise money.  Another fundraiser is scheduled for April 22; it includes a motorcycle ride, live music, and entertainment.

Fent described how the crash has changed his perspective, and his life. “There is so much to be thankful for,” he began. “I am blessed that my injuries were not as bad as they could have been. I could have lost my eyesight, or the use of my limbs; or I could have sustained head trauma, or permanent internal injuries. I am a walking miracle.”  He may require further procedures to repair the bone shards in his neck; however, he hopes to return to work full time within the next two months.

Fent is not bothered by the slight scars from the facial lacerations. “I am not disfigured,” he said. “They are not scars; it is a badge of honor.  It shows the world that I am a survivor, not a victim.”

Fent stated that there are many reasons for his miraculous recovery.  “I attribute my progress to the Summerdale police officers, the fire department, and Medstar EMS who acted so swiftly; and the amazing medical professionals at USA Medical Center.  I am also overwhelmed and humbled by the outpouring of support that I have received from my immediate family, my law enforcement family, and my community,” he said. “It is because of their prayers and my faith that I am still here.”  He added that he has been given a second chance at life, and that he intends to live each day to its fullest potential.

“There are opportunities that have yet to be fulfilled. I am looking forward to contributing more to my community. When I was at USA Medical Center, I received get-well cards from children at Summerdale Elementary School. I want to personally thank them, and maybe talk to them about personal safety and my career. I remember how I was inspired by the police officers who took time with me when I was a child. I hope that I will be able to give back in the same manner that I have been given. The good Lord wasn’t finished with me yet. He’s got plans for me, and I plan to use every day like it is the gift that it is.”

Friends and supporters will be holding a fundraiser for Officer Fent at Oak Hollow Farm

Sunday, April 22 at 12:00.  Call Allyson at 251-424-4206 for more information.