There are two stories to be told when it comes to the helicopter crash that claimed the lives of two Atlanta Police Department officers early this morning. Both speak of courage, faith, responsibility, honor, dignity, and love. Both tell of the unspeakable grief of mothers who have to explain to children, young and old, that Daddy isn’t coming home. And both claim the hero status of the Thin Blue Line.
My husband often tells me that being a Law Enforcement Officer is not just a job, it’s a calling. I see the truth in that every time he tells a story from past shifts, squads, and situations. I see it in his eyes every time we hear sirens or see blue lights. It’s no different for rest of the men and women who choose to don the badge and the gun.
As I read the articles concerning Officer Richard Halford and Officer Shawn Smiley, my heart aches for the wife who will never hold her husband again and the children who will never be held by their daddies. For the 25 year veteran, his shift probably started like all the others. And for the 1 month rookie, the shift may have brought the excitement of a new job. For the family who has lived the life of Law Enforcement for the last 25 years, some not knowing anything but this life, the knock on the door in the middle of the night is a fear you acknowledge but push back in your mind, clinging to the hope and faith that your loved one will come home when they are supposed to at the end of every shift. For the family who has just begun to live this life of organized chaos, this is the fear that was either in the forefront of their minds or the fear that had not yet become a reality. But this morning, both the veteran LEO mom and the rookie LEO mom had the same mission to accomplish.
The LEO mom mission is to grieve with their children and share in the moments of unsteadiness. And then they carry on. They remember that there are bills to pay, kids to feed, homework to get done, and that life keeps moving forward even when we feel like it has stopped. LEO moms share all the moments that will continue to happen in their children’s lives. They keep taking pictures and setting up the video camera for dances and games and birthdays. They send kids to college and watch them get married and have babies. They tell their LEO kids that their daddies would be proud and that they are watching them in their special moments. LEO moms deal with their grief in quiet moments when they think their kids can’t see or hear them. And they put on brave faces and smiles when they are in their darkest moments.
What we forget so often is that when the Law Enforcement Officer joins his force, his whole family joins as well. Spouses sleep schedules change, kids learn to love the sound of velcro coming undone as much as their non-LEO parent, and the family unit learns to treasure the days off, the dinners spent around the same table, and the quick trips home in the middle of a busy work day just to check in.
God bless our LEO family in Atlanta. We are crying with you, sharing in your grief, and promise that regardless of the length of your time in our family, we will never let you walk alone.