This week, I had the honor of taking two of our children to observe the funeral procession of fallen Phoenix Police officer David Glasser. He was gunned down by a 19-year-old during a burglary call.
This married father of two, a 12 year veteran, lost his life over a BURGLARY.
His wife is going to an empty bed every night, over a burglary.
His children are wondering when Daddy will come kiss them goodnight, and losing hope that he will, over a burglary.
It disgusts me.
It was 90 degrees that day, and the last day of school for my kids. After a quick lunch, we decided to go home and get our flag that we've been proudly flying, in honor of law enforcement and in memory of Officer Glasser. We drove the 10 minutes to the site where the officer's procession would drive past. Positioned on the corner on ramp to the freeway with about 25 other people waving American flags, we somberly held our flag and placed our hands on our hearts.
And mine broke.
We stood in the heat for over an hour as my shocked children watched police vehicles roll by, seemingly endlessly. First, the motorcycle procession, guiding the way for Officer Glasser. This, followed by the hearse containing the flag-draped coffin, flanked by four more motorcycle officers. Then, limos carrying family and the procession of Phoenix Police vehicles. It was an incredible and moving display of honor for a fallen brother, and it rocked me. My son's eyes welled with tears. My daughter stood unmoving, hand on heart. I was unable to retain the tears that stung for a man I'd never meet.
And I felt ANGRY.
I can say it is only by grace that my own Dad is still here today, after a law enforcement career that spanned over 40 years. FORTY. YEARS. Forty years of getting dressed in the morning, never knowing if he'd make it home that day. Granted, later in his career he was elected sheriff and we felt safer having him more pinned to his office, but still, when bad things happened, he was at the scene himself to support his officers (which we hated, but he did it anyway).
There were stories of close calls over the years. My Dad can describe the way a bullet sounds when it whizzes so close to your head you can feel the wind it broke through. He can tell you what it's like to go to a scene with an FBI agent, in the agent's vehicle, and have a man possibly connected to the Oklahoma City bombing run out of his porch with a shotgun pointed at you. He and the agent crouched down behind open vehicle doors, my Dad desperately trying to radio for back up on a radio he wasn't familiar with. I can't imagine the fear involved.
He can tell you what it was like the day he called my Mom and said "Bring me jeans, tennis shoes and my other gun but don't ask me any questions."
My Mom knows what it's like to do just that, and have her husband kiss her goodbye and say "tell the kids I love them". She also knows what it's like to shoulder that fear alone, not wanting to alarm her teenage kids.
Dad knows what it's like to respond to the scene where a child was decapitated, an image he's never been able to shake. He's seen so much death, violence and the worst parts of humanity, yet remains strong and together for his family. And always did.
I remember my Mom curled on the corner of the couch some nights, when I was little, listening intently to the loud, static filled sounds of the police scanner, making sure everything was going ok that night. She never let on how scared she was. Now I, as a wife and mother, wonder how the families do it.
My Dad has been on the other side of things as well, having to speak at the funerals of fallen officers, occasionally his own.
Why do they do it?
Admittedly, some of us out there are just plain adrenaline junkies. I inherited that, being an ER nurse by trade and thriving on the chaotic and life-or-death situations. But they seem to be born with an urge to protect. To restore the good. To keep people with no intent to live a life of decency, or with any semblance of a moral code, out of the homes and bodies of people who do.
It's valiant. Plain and simple.
I am not here to debate. I am not here to receive an earful on the occasional officers who act outside of the lines, because let's remember, those exist in every profession. I've worked with nurses who were caught injecting themselves with narcotics while WORKING, and nursing is supposed to be the most trusted profession! So I will leave no room for the ugliness that is pervasive toward our officers in this society. If that's you, go somewhere else.
I will, however, call us all to action.
My Dad has told me that back in the 70's, (and I'm sure prior to that), officers rarely paid for their own meals. Restaurants were grateful to have their presence, knowing it created a culture of safety in that place, if even for a moment.
Think of it, when you walk into a restaurant for lunch and there are a couple of uniformed officers in there having lunch, you have a settledness in your gut that no way murder is going down in here right now.
And so for several years, any time I come upon officers in a restaurant, I attempt to pay for their lunch. If they're already eating, I will purchase a gift card when I pay and drop it off at their table. I take every opportunity to tell them thank you.
And even when I received a well-deserved ticket recently (they really need to re-do the entrance setup to that Circle K) I chatted with the officer and always leave with a "please get home safe".
So I invite you, my lovely like-minded people, to join me in doing the same. I have started The Feeling Blue Project, a gathering spot on Facebook where we can share ideas for thanking our law enforcement officers, or share what we've done for them. It's a very specific version of pay-it-forward.
If you're feeling helpless in watching these officer funerals or the media coverage that paints them as as anything other than brave victims, then join the movement!
1. Pay for an officer's lunch when you spot them in your usual joint.
2. Buy several gift cards in small amounts (ie: $5) from Dunkin Donuts/Starbucks, etc, and
hand them out randomly when you see officers. Don't be afraid to approach them, remember they are there to help, and are so appreciative of any support!
3. Make "shift bags" for them! This is great for kids to participate in. Get a sealable plastic bag
and put in items such as granola bars, instant coffee packets, hand sanitizer, (think of the gross places they have to go), mini bottles of water, chap stick, bottles of Five Hour Energy.
4. If there is a particular officer that was helpful to you, get their name and be sure and send an email or letter to their Sheriff or Chief, thanking them for what they've done.
5. Pray for them. For their protection, their wisdom, their strength to do that job. And pray
for their families.
6. Just tell them THANK YOU when you see them. It goes a long way.
7. Join us here: The Feeling Blue Project ! Share with us your ideas or ways you've paid it forward to your officers!
Because their brave lives will ALWAYS matter.