See This Man
For those of you that scroll over stories about murdered officers or have something negative to say, this is for you.
See how happy this man looks? His name was Charlie. He was happy just to breathe. He was grateful to wake up and put his feet on the floor. He used to say how blessed he felt to have a wife and children that he couldn’t wait to come home to. He had a great sense of humor and made everything fun. He loved his country and he was a proud American. He loved fall and the changing colors of the trees and cool weather. He loved Christmas and how it made people forgive each other and give more than any other time of year. He loved taking his family to Tennessee every year to hike and breathe mountain air and he really enjoyed the people there. He loved cruises and taught his children about other countries and how lucky we were to live with so much freedom. He … loved … LIFE!
I know this because somehow, God decided I deserved to be his wife and the mother of his children. He let me witness what an honest, loyal, happy man was like to have by my side. God let me feel the security and calmness that only a man like that can give. God gave me the life of a queen when I married Charlie and I will never ever live that kind of life again. He let me witness what a father should be and how devoted a man could be to his wife and babies. And by the way, he LOVED being a husband and father. He loved it more than anything else in the world. We know this because for some reason, he reminded us all the time. His life was so happy and FULL.
This man chose to serve the community with the hopes of making it a safer place to live. He just wanted to be an officer. He knew the pay was low, the risk was high, and weekends and holidays were almost never a day off. He didn’t sign up to die as some people claim. He signed up to be a protector in the community who would be held to a higher standard than you and I – even off duty. He signed up knowing his demeanor and conduct would always be subject to judgment, even more than others. He signed up knowing all of this because making a difference and having a safer place to live meant more and he was willing to risk his life to make it happen.
Despite the names he was called, or how many times he was punched, kicked, spit on, cursed at, and targeted, he continued to be a great officer. Never did he complain about the hours, missed holidays, or the way he was treated.
He kept children safe and sat with them when they were taken from their abusive parents. He saw nasty accidents and held people telling them they would be okay knowing they were going to die. He knocked on doors to tell parents that their child was killed in an accident or found dead. He sat with bodies until other agencies came – sometimes wondering if they even had a family.
He brought lost children home. He brought teens home that were hanging out in places they shouldn’t have been. He walked women to their car at night when it wasn’t safe to be alone. He picked up animals that were injured and brought them to places that could help. These are just a few things I learned in his 23 years of service, so God only knows the things he witnessed but never shared.
He continued to strap on a gun and vest and leave home knowing it could be the last time.
Well, the last time came December 21, 2014. He took a noise complaint call thinking it would be quick, so he could assist with another call involving a fight. Instead, he died just a few minutes later. He was shot, backed over, and pulled forward. He died with his brothers in blue fighting to keep him alive. For a short time, he knew he was going to die.
I owe those men more than I could ever pay them for working so hard on my husband that night. I owe them for holding his hand and talking to him as he struggled to take his last breath—breath that he was so thankful for the morning before.
So, the next time you make a comment about an officer or see their picture in the news after they’re killed, I want you to think about Charlie and all the other officers who were killed. I want you to think about the families; think about our five children and me left behind that will NEVER be the same no matter how many years pass. I want you to think of the brothers and sisters in blue that witness them die. I want you to think of how they feel responding to the next call without the one they lost or when they pass the same place their brother or sister in blue was killed. I promise you, they NEVER forget.
There are bad people in every profession, in every culture, in every walk of life. When you see another human being, do you immediately think of a child molester, rapist, abuser, cheater, or something that’s sure to be horrible? Most don’t but when it comes to an officer, you’d be surprised how many assume they are bad and dismiss the fact that under their uniform, they are just a normal human being—a husband, wife, daddy, mommy, brother, sister, son, daughter. A human being that meant something to someone and had a family too. A human being that didn’t get to wake up, put his feet on the floor, or hug his children and wife before he died; a human being who selflessly gave his or her life to protect the lives of strangers like you, and had probably done so at least once in his or her career; a human being like Charlie.
Show a little respect, it’s the best thing you could do for a fallen officer’s family; a family like mine.
Teresa Kondek is a mother of five, writer, and an advocate for law enforcement. Teresa became a widow on December 21, 2014 when her husband, Officer Charles Kondek, Jr., was violently killed in the line of duty.
After her loss, Teresa began working tirelessly with local, state, and elected officials to raise awareness and provide support for law enforcement families struggling with loss. While publicly sharing her grief to help others, Teresa became part of the C.O.P.S. (Concerns of Police Survivors) Organization where she joined thousands of survivors nationwide trying to rebuild their lives.
In 2016 she completed the Florida State University Certified Public Management program following her seventeen years serving the Pasco County Clerk and Comptroller’s Office as an operations supervisor. In 2018 she completed the Victim Services Practitioner Designation program from the Florida Crime Prevention Training Institute through the Office of Attorney General.
Teresa is honored to support and honor those left behind, retired, and still serving.