As I sat on my front porch two days after the July 4th celebrations and revelry had become a fading memory, like the haze and sound of fireworks, two thoughts struck me. First, I had read of the line of duty deaths of the Gary, Indiana and Indianapolis Metro police officers. Death takes no holidays, I thought. The other thought, we just celebrated the deaths of so many patriots who helped give birth to and survival of this great nation. Death seems to be a holiday. Now this may seem a little deep, maybe even a little disturbing, but bear with me.
I am a student of warriors, servants, and leaders, from all walks of life – not just law enforcement. True warriors, servants and leaders throughout history face death. Be it physical, spiritual or emotional, the test each faces is how they handle these encounters with death.
As cops, we seem to eventually develop immunity to death. For urban police officers, the adage, “Death is a fact of life.” is easily understood. Pictures of news headlines of death in places like Chicago, Detroit or New York might readily come to mind. You need to merely watch the latest Hollywood mega-hit movie and you can become desensitized to death.
But death for cops is more than headlines and movie trailers. We see violent death, accidental death, and senseless death daily. We learn to distance ourselves from death and do our jobs. We don’t forget the dead, we take their place and speak for them. Death becomes a challenge to figure out the why. Why did this happen? Why did someone do this? Why didn’t somebody stop it? Everyone wants to know the why, so they can find some sense of peace in their loss. Our job is to find the why.
For military families, the why is much the same. Why did my son or daughter have to die defending some other country and their people? Why? I hope I never have to ask that question, as our son serves this great country in the Air Force on foreign soil. I know he is a patriot, I just pray he lives to tell about his patriotism. Death is not just a fact of life for military families, it is a fear of every parent, spouse and child. We just try not to think about it.
Death is a fact of life, until it happens to one of our own. The almost daily, certainly weekly, news of a line of duty death of a police officer is not easy to take. We hear citizens say, “I could never do your job.” The news of a line of duty death makes headlines in the local papers and on regional news cast, and probably forgotten until next year’s Police Memorial Day. Society has come to accept line of duty deaths as “part of the job.” But it is more than this.
The death of a fellow officer, no matter how far away, reminds us of a very real fact. It could have been me or you. We quietly have thoughts race through our heads. What would happen to my family? How would my death affect my spouse, my kids? Why him or her? What could they have done differently and survived? We never voice these thoughts, it would be disrespectful, a sign of weakness or worse, criticism of a fallen brother or sister. You see, the culture of death is also a culture of silent doubts, fears and what ifs.
So, how did a weekend of flags, fireworks and grilling spawn such deep thinking? First, I am an immigrant. I was born in another country and became a U.S citizen when I was 5 years old. July 4th was a huge deal growing up. To me my country was brand new, not hundreds of years old.
Over 50 years later I still have the American flag the Federal judge gave me at my naturalization ceremony. Second, our youngest son is serving this great country as an Airman. Third, I am a retired cop. I protected and served 26 years in one of the most violent communities per capita in America. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are more than just a snappy slogan to me.
Despite the culture of death cops face each day, be it the death of a citizen or one of their own, they never give up. Despite their own quiet voices of fear and doubt or the loud voices of criticism from the media or special interest groups, they still don the uniform of a warrior, servant and leader and rush into the face of death. When praised for seemingly heroic efforts, we hear the officer genuinely say, “I was just doing my job.” In reality, you were fulfilling your calling.
Despite grieving over the loss of one their own, cops still get in their cruisers and respond to calls for help. They swore an oath to protect and serve and they will not fail. They are the unsung patriots of defending and protecting our freedoms, our lives and our dreams – every minute of every day of every year. Death takes no holidays off. And neither do cops. So, be safe warriors, servants, and leaders. You are truly patriots of the greatest nation on earth, On this 4th of July, at least one grateful citizen thanks you for your service and sacrifice.
Pat Welsh is the Founder and President of PJ Welsh and Associates, LLC. Mr. Welsh is a retired Major, West Patrol Operations Division of the Dayton Police Department and currently is a Civilian Criminal Investigator with a Vice and Human Trafficking Unit in Colorado. He was recognized throughout his 26 year career in Patrol, Narcotics, and Investigations by such groups as the FBI, the United States Secret Service, the National Police Athletic League, and the Dayton Police Department. A graduate of the FBINA and Police Executive Leadership College, Mr. Welsh specializes in law enforcement training, keynote speaking and coaching services. Visit http://www.Warrior-Servant-Leader.com to learn more about becoming a true Warrior, Servant and Leader or contact Mr. Welsh at [email protected].