It's that time of year again when planning in earnest begins for the trip to D.C. for Police Week. What's all the hype about? Why should you go, if it's at all possible? Simply said: EVRYONE MATTERS.
If you bury your patrol car up to the axles in snow or mud, will you care which link is the best or strongest in the chain used to pull you out? Nope; just so they're all there is all that's important.
If you're unfortunate enough to have to use deadly force to defend your own life, will it matter which of the six rounds that landed center mass actually ended the threat? No it will not matter, just so you go home to your family.
To a winner of $10 million in the lottery, which of those dollars is the most important? All of them can be the only answer.
If you're in a fight for your life, will it matter which of your co-workers show up to bring it to a safe end? Not one bit, but you know everyone on-shift will be there.
On Tuesday, May13th of last year, I was standing with thousands of other coppers at the Memorial. We were waiting for the Candlelight Vigil to start. Large buses began arriving at the rear of the site ferrying surviving family members of fallen officers.
I was particularly taken with a young mother and her son of probably 6-7 years old. They were escorted by an honor guard from the bus to the seats that were being held for them. Each family was given a rose as they emerged from the bus.
The young boy stopped in his tracks when he saw the size and scope of the gathered crowd. He looked about as if in total awe. I could only imagine what was going through his mind after suffering the loss of his dad and the lonely times from Dad's EOW until that night. The look on his face spoke volumes. It showed me his sense of being overwhelmed at how many people had gathered to remember his Dad and share his grief. That alone made the trip worthwhile.
Was my individual presence important to that young boy? Hardly... but the presence of all of us was.
After the Vigil and the obligatory visit to the FOP beer tent, my buddy and I headed back towards the Metro station (underneath the Memorial). We ran into a federal agent from Kansas. In just the past couple of months, he lost his brother - also an LEO - and had come to D.C. for Police Week for the first time.
We stood by the Wall and talked for an hour or more. It was about nothing and everything. It was like the conversations one has at a funeral home about his loss and catching up. We cried and we laughed together.
Was the attendance of my buddy and I critical to the success of Police Week? At that moment, to that one man, we were.
A grieving child will tug at your heart strings like nothing else, and a grieving adult is at a whole different place. He has suffered many of life's disappointments and joys. He knows that life must go on. He needs to know that he is not suffering alone. I firmly believe that God uses that place and that time as a tool to deliver His messages of love to those who are hurting. I believe that we are His messengers.
The whole time in D.C., many are in our midst wearing badges that identifies them as a surviving family member. They want to talk. They want to learn more about the loved one they lost by listening to the stories and experiences of other cops who live on to do the same job. They become part of the "family," and their gratitude is evident.
In a video from the NLEOMF, the widow of Joseph Lanzi talks about how the Police Week experience reminds family members that: we will never forget. She gathers strength from the others in attendance. It sends a vivid message that she is not alone now or ever.
They are not alone. They are surrounded by thousands who share their grief and support them. And, they always will be.