Editor's Note: In the law enforcement family we too easily lose contact with our fellow officers once they retire, or we retire. Unless we see them socially, the bind that we had called "the job" doesn't exist anymore and all too often we fade apart. When you consider the trials and tribulations, the joys and horror that we experienced together on the job for decades, it seems a shame to let them go out of your life. If you can think of a fellow officer who meant a lot to you "on the job," but who is no longer in your day because one of you retired, call them; reach out to them; let them know you still cherish the bond you had - even if you no longer risk your lives together. You did. '...and he who sheds blood with me shall be called my brother.' The statement means a lot. Make that call.
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I had 37 Thanksgiving holidays wearing a badge. Worked some and off some but the majority as I was a detective so I was on call. Thanksgiving is usually quiet and peaceful.
One war story I enjoy was a call one my best friends, Allen Watkins (one of the finest Deputies I worked with), received: a domestic with fighting; yelling and screaming were heard. He parked up the street (yes we had some sense 30 some odd years ago) and slipped up to the house. Suddenly the man in the house let out a line of expletives which Allen thought were at the man’s wife. In the south during Thanksgiving, the temperatures were usually in the 70’s and we left our doors open. Needless to say Allen entered the house to quell what he thought was a hot domestic.
What he found was a man cheering on his favorite football team and his wife cheering for the other side. Football and Thanksgiving go hand in hand and are taken seriously in Georgia. One has trimmings the other colorful expletives. To make matters worse this was a house divided so we had a triple call here. Allen stayed around a few minutes to see to see the next touchdown and all hell broke loose. He told them to have a good time but to quiet down for the neighbors’ piece of mind.
On Thanksgiving Day 1978 lifelong residents of Douglas County, J.L. and Ruby Washington, were reported missing. They were in their twilight years with children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. They were last seen traveling to a family dinner and never heard from again. In those days everyone in Douglas County knew each other. For them to be gone meant there was foul play. A search was begun with Sheriff Earl D. Lee leading the efforts.
JL and Ruby’s bodies were found at a pulpwood site in a remote area of the county. They had been shot, stabbed, and bludgeoned. In my years working cases in other jurisdictions, the crime scenes I viewed, photographed, and autopsies that followed, theirs was among the worst I can remember. It touched the heart of every investigator and officer there and solidified the resolve to bring the case to a close.
Some of you have read articles I’ve written about Sheriff Lee but this was one of the most troubling cases I ever worked with him on. At the time he had been with the Sheriff’s office in some capacity for over 20 years. He had strong ties with the community and everyone owed the sheriff in some way or another and it was time to call in his markers. Lee worked for at least three days straight. He would hit the couch in his office for a few hours rest and we were up and going again. He always gave words of encouragement to those with him using humor to keep us going. We also drank 90% octane coffee back then so we were wide awake and read to go.