Editor’s Note: CopBlue is pleased to welcome Joel Shults to our Crew. He is one of the best: A nationally known, talented and recognized author in law enforcement.
We believe that CopBlue has the finest group of Contributing Authors of any law enforcement publication in the country. Collectively we are doing our best to help get every one of our Brothers and Sisters in Blue home at the end of their shift. We are ALL COPS and we are here for YOU.
I remember walking, tourist-like, through an old cemetery in Savanah, Georgia on a weekend road trip while at FLETC. I just like old cemeteries.
One of the saddest benevolent lies is found there: “Gone but not forgotten.”
As I scanned the ancient headstones, I notice that there seemed to be one that had garnered special attention. I moved closer and began to read that this was the resting place of the remains of one Button Gwinnet, one of the original signers of the Declaration of Independence. I inhaled with whispered “Wow” and suddenly felt that I was on an especially sacred patch of ground.
There is hardly a culture where remembrance is not a part. As the son of a WWII soldier, part of my DNA is saluting the flag, wearing the poppy pin and standing at attention at somber ceremonies remembering the fallen.
CALLED TO PAY HOMAGE
We are compelled to remember our heroes. Even our collective American guilt over our treatment of our Vietnam soldiers blossomed into yellow ribbons for our Iraq war veterans and we finally invited those Vietnam conflict era veterans to the party.
When a police officer dies, we offer a final parade more massive than any Presidential motorcade. Their name is engraved in our nation’s capital and perhaps in state and local monuments. Even in the current era of hostility toward law enforcement, local communities find an outpouring of support when a police officer is killed. Flowers, cards, and teddy bears cover the places where the blood was spilled.
And that is as it should be. Never forget. Never forget.
Then, we look around at those memorials and see in the crowd the wheelchair-bound former police officer whose career was derailed by a line of duty injury. We see those with the slight, tell-tale limp of a prosthetic. We see one with the stoic expression well practiced to mask the pulsing winces of chronic pain.
We don’t see the ones still in their hospital beds attached to tubes and monitors. We don’t see the ones at the rehab centers learning how to walk again. We don’t see the ones whose injuries were once described in the newspaper as “non-life threatening,” sitting in the darkness trying to talk their own brain out of a panic.
WHEN ONE OF US IS HURT, WE ARE ALL HURT THE SAME
It’s not a competition between those survivors of a line of duty death of a loved one and those who are called into a life of caring for a living survivor.
Children left without a mother or father and children whose lives have also been changed both must now adjust to a mother or father who simply cannot be who they once were. They have their own grief and loss to bear.
Families of officers who died in the line of duty feel abandoned when, over time, they are forgotten by the thin blue line. Similarly, families feel abandoned when they, too are forgotten when their officer is injured in the line of duty and are of no use to their agency. Those officers become unemployed and uninsured, as well.
The feeling of abandonment for each is beyond compare.
REMEMBERING FOR AN ETERNITY
Each year, there is a Presidentially declared time when we are called to remember both the dead and wounded. For the catastrophically injured to be forgotten in those moments is a failure to recognize the totality of the heroism and sacrifice.
To forget those law enforcement veterans robs our culture, both as a profession and as a nation. It diminishes the completeness of our honor to those who have served with utmost devotion.
If we forget the hurting of any hero, we may forget the fullness of our own willingness to give all. For behind every dead and wounded police officer stands the living, serving, able ones ready to make that same journey out of safety and into danger.
We see it every day. Only by honoring all of those who have given so much can we stand resolute to carry on.
*Police week honors the fallen. Let us also honor and help those who fell and are still working to rise up again.
“Above all, it’s about going home at the end of the shift … “
We couldn’t agree more.
Joel enjoys hearing from his readers – EMAIL
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