On Jan. 9 of last year, I was driving home listening to the radio when an announcement aired reminding folks to observe the second annual National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day (L.E.A.D.) by thanking those who protect us daily. It touched my heart, because there is so much negative press given to a handful of corrupt law officers, when so many risk their lives to keep us safe.
I was thinking about their sacrifice, then as the radio spot ended, I pulled into a gas station, and noticed two law enforcement vehicles parked next to each other. It was bitter cold that January night, and the officers were sitting in their vehicles with the engines running.
Since the gas station is only a mile from my Miami County home, I went inside to check if everything was alright. There had been a robbery nearby not long before that, and I was concerned for the young clerk that I knew well. The cashier assured me that everything was okay, but that local law enforcers often parked there briefly to ensure the station’s safety.
When I went back outside, I felt compelled to do what the inspirational spot had suggested. I approached the officers’ vehicles. Their windows were down and they were deep in conversation, but stopped talking immediately to inquire if they could be of assistance.
“I wondered if you were aware that it’s Law Enforcement Appreciation Day?” I asked.
“I heard that,” one answered smiling, but looking confused about what I needed. I can’t remember if they were policemen or sheriff deputies, but both appeared to be early thirty-something.
“Well, I just wanted to thank you and to tell you how much my husband and I appreciate you guarding our neighborhood.”
I wish you could have seen the broad smiles on both of their young faces. It was as if I had given them a wonderful gift, when in essence they are the ones risking their lives each day, never knowing what that day might hold.
After all, this past year has been one of the saddest in history when it comes to vicious attacks on innocent law enforcement personnel who are merely trying to uphold the peace. USA Today’s Nov. 3, 2016, headline read, “Ambush-style killings of police up 167% this year.” Written by Kim Hjelmgaard, the feature records that, “On average, one law enforcement officer is killed in the line of duty in the U.S. every 61 hours…”
That’s why, “In 1962, President John F. Kennedy signed a proclamation which designated May 15 as Peace Officers’ Memorial Day and the week in which that date falls as Police Week,” according to the website, www.policeweek.org. There is an annual ceremony held at the Miami County Courthouse, as a reminder of the local officers who made the “supreme sacrifice” by giving their lives in the line of duty. Yet, the Miami County Sheriff’s office website reports, “It is not how these officers die that makes them heroes, but how they live.”
A reminder of this daily dedication could be found in another news article, “Man sentenced to 20 years to life for rape,” by journalist Sam Wildow on Dec. 27, 2016, for the Troy Daily News and Piqua Daily Call. In it, Wildow writes that Assistant County Prosecutor Janna Parker, “Noted the detectives from the Troy Police Department who attended the sentencing hearing… who were ‘standing up’ for the victim, saying that it was the criminal justice system’s job to stand up for victims…like the five-year-old boy who could not stand up for himself.” Reading about the rape of a defenseless child is beyond heartbreaking, but learning of the devoted detectives joining together to protect that innocent child is deeply inspiring.
To express your gratitude to local law enforcement this Jan. 9, 2017, on the third annual L.E.A.D day on the C.O.P.S. (Concerns of Police Survivors) website, there are some suggestions to support law enforcement. These include: 1) wearing blue clothing, 2) sending a card of thanks, 3) asking children in the community to write letters of support, 4) proudly displaying a blue light, 5) organizing an event to support law enforcement officers, and the list goes on. Still, the most important suggestion is to personally thank law enforcement personnel whenever you see them. Who knows, our gratitude might warm up a cold winter night, and gain momentum for this well-deserved day of appreciation.
Christina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and inspirational speaker. Her website is www.christinaryanclaypool.com