Last weekend, the Manpanion and I stopped in at the Sheppard Spinal Clinic in Atlanta to see two Police Officers who were wounded in the line of duty; one from Florida-a motorcycle cop- and one from West Virginia-a patrol officer. Both were hit on the street, in the line of duty.
As we walked in the door of the hospital, I didn’t have a lot going through my head. I think I expected two guys in hospital beds whom would carry on normal conversations with us, thank us for coming by, and we would be on our way. What I got was a harsh reality check.
We were greeted by a friendly guy with a scruffy beard, jeans, and a black sweater. He smiled and went to find the patients we were looking for and let them know they had visitors. It wasn’t until we walked into the first room and I saw a sign from the family calling for short visits that I realized this wasn’t going to be a “feel-good” visit. Having never met the Officer, we weren’t sure which one he was as there were two patients in each room. And both were obviously suffering from brain injuries. Our patient ended up being the one sitting up in a wheel-chair with head support. He was watching basketball and the Manpanion attempted a conversation with him. Not getting anywhere, he began to just watch basketball with him for awhile. After a few minutes we said our goodbyes and began to walk to the next patient. I was blinking back tears and taking a few deep breaths as we made our way down the hall.
The next room gave us a much more alert patient, albeit black and blue from his car accident. He was surrounded by his wife, mom, grandmother, and a family friend. They had obviously been there a while and the room had a homey feel to it. We talked for a long time, laughing, joking, asking questions about home, and letting them know to call if they needed anything. The West Virginia officer was being released for out-patient treatment this week.
As we headed back to the car and home, I was struck with the thought that these were Law Enforcement Officers, just like the ones I interact with on a regular basis; loyal friends, husbands, wives, moms and dads, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters. And their injuries occurred, one during a chase and one during a routine traffic stop.
It was an ugly reminder that every time these officers leave their homes wearing the badge there is a danger. And while we have seen a huge spike in gun-related officer deaths and injuries, it is equally important to be aware of the dangers of “regular” patrols and traffic stops. When you see an officer on the side of the road, move over. When you see an officer or a citizen on a motorcycle, be mindful of changing lanes and speed.
There were pictures in both LEO’s hospital rooms of them with family and friends. Both men seemed-in person-to be mere shadows of the people they were before their accidents; thin, gaunt, lives changed forever.
With my own special LEO in my life, I am well aware that even though he sits behind a desk most days, there is nothing “safe” about his job. The badge on his belt changes it all.
The reality of this job is harsh and dangerous. This job is a calling. And just like those who lay down their lives against foreign enemies in faraway lands, our Law Enforcement Officers law down their lives every day on my street and yours. Their war is here and they suffer the consequences of that calling in horrific ways. Yet, they do it willingly and with honor.
Have you thanked an LEO today?