I reflected earlier this summer – on our 4th of July holiday to be exact – on how the celebration termed as our ‘Independence’ Day seems to be lost at times to those of us that live in this great country we call home. Lost in the sense that we may take for granted that freedom is not an entitlement.
As the news stories played out across our televisions this past Sunday, many of us recalled where we were on that fateful morning fifteen years ago. Where we were, what we were doing when shock took over as we watched and felt the horror take residence in the heart of every American, young and old.
As I watched on Sunday, I thought again of our men and women stationed in countries across oceans, far away from loved ones, who are there for the sole reason of defending this county we move freely in. Where we, at any time of the day or night, can choose to live our lives with the comfort of not having to worry of such things as missile strikes, combat zones or constant bombings. Those soldiers are working and laying down their lives to ensure that freedom that all of us cocooned in safety can so easily relay into a ‘right’.
On Monday, in my mind and heart, those soldiers overseas became joint partners with soldiers of a different uniform. Those wearing the badges of city and county police officers.
As the hours ticked by throughout the day, I kept watch for emails updating the condition of a police officer from my hometown who was shot while serving a warrant over the weekend. Late Monday afternoon, we learned he had succumbed to the injuries.
And my hometown is united like it hasn’t been since 9/11.
Office Brackeen’s patrol car is standing guard at the police station, covered in flowers. Our picturesque courtsquare is adorned in blue ribbons. Restaurants are selling blue lapel pins to raise money for the family. Students at schools throughout the county will be wearing blue in honor on Friday. Off duty officers in full uniform are seen standing talking in groups all over town. Facebook is filled with beautiful tributes. Just to give you a visual. Our hearts are broken for his wife and four year old daughter. For all his friends and fellow officers.
We’ve all heard the news reports of officers killed in the line of duty. And I am ashamed to admit it to be so, but until this tragedy hit ‘home’, I had mainly been only aware of officers as my foot got heavy on the gas pedal and feared being caught. Personally speaking, that is. Also, I remember telling my granddaughter that they are there for us to call if we’re in danger and need their help.
My, how things have changed.
In the volatile currents that are wrecking our society, these officers are truly soldiers on the battlefields of home. Just as the soldiers overseas are defending our nation as a whole, these brave men and women step out each day into situations that can take their lives just as easily as those in the war zones of our world. They are officers because of a heart’s desire to serve and protect – an oath they make to each of us.
I urge everyone reading this to examine your thoughts. Have you, like myself, failed to give due respect to those who have sworn this oath? I can say without a doubt that if I had to tally them into a column, the column would be headed as “Protection I’m Entitled To”. The last forty-eight or so hours have opened my eyes.
This morning I actually saluted an officer driving in the lane beside me on the way to work. I realize as a civilian a salute may not be proper, but as each of us here struggle to come to terms with this happening in our own backyards, a salute summed it up for me in the space of moments I had in his eyesight. I have awakened to a great respect and appreciation for the protection they fight daily to blanket us with. My heart goes out to them in a way like never before. And now, with my granddaughter having been a part of the prayer vigil on the courtsquare Monday evening, I have a feeling she may be giving me a lesson on the freedoms they protect and not just there if we need them.
Please join me in searching out ways to let these protectors in our midst know that we stand with them, that we appreciate more than words can express the many ways they cloak our days in protection. Chances are very high that we know very little of the actual dangers they have experienced in any given day. I will seek ways to express this appreciation, but in the meantime, I will continue to salute.
My prayers and gratitude are with each of our soldiers. Everywhere…