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Chaplain's Column: Teaching The Children

The Missouri Law Enforcement Officers Memorial sits on a bluff next to the state Capitol building, overlooking the Missouri River.  If you don’t know it’s there, it’s easy to miss.

For a number of years, 8th graders from the parish school I pastor have made a field trip to Jefferson City to meet our local legislators and tour the Capitol, Supreme Court building and Governor’s Mansion.  The last two years, I’ve led them to the Memorial, spoken with them about what it means, and pointed out names of officers from our area who have made the ultimate sacrifice.  Frankly, some are more interested texting, horsing around, or thinking about the ice cream stop coming up.  When I mention it, they’re also unaware of the memorial in one of our county parks bearing the names of the 47 fallen officers from throughout southeast Missouri.  It can be frustrating.

As a pastor, a large part of my life is spent sowing the seeds of faith, Talk about regular doses of frustration. And the parallel as a chaplain with helping not only youngsters but also adults learn about and appreciate the often mundane, frequently challenging, occasionally dangerous role of cops didn’t explode in my head until I started writing this.

We are accustomed to reading about or hearing of officer victims of traffic incidents, stabbings, shootings and ambushes.  Given the increasing numbers of such tragedies, they are sadly becoming almost commonplace.  Groups supporting law enforcement survivors and chaplains keep on trying to heighten awareness, and it may feel like we’re spitting in the wind.  But the message is important, and during this month when our line of duty dead are specially remembered at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C., the necessity of our spreading the news is amplified.

An anonymous author writes: We don’t pay law enforcement officers for what they do.  We pay for them for what they are willing to do. 

God bless those whose work is done, and those for whom the beat goes on.

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About The Author:

John Harth has been a Catholic priest and emergency services chaplain since 1987 and is a Master Level Chaplain and Life Member of the International Conference of Police Chaplains, serving the Missouri State Highway Patrol, Cape Girardeau and Scott County Sheriff's Departments, Jackson and Kelso Police Departments, Jackson Fire/Rescue and the Cape Girardeau County Emergency Management Agency. He is pastor of the Immaculate Conception, Jackson. Fr. John is also a member of the Federation of Fire Chaplains and a charter member of the Missouri Fire Chaplain Corps.