In The Heart Of A Hero
This weekend, Hunting For Heroes gathered five disabled LEOs in Missouri for a turkey hunt. The honorees came from Pennsylvania, Texas, West Virginia, and Ohio. Some injuries were visible and some were not, but all were apparent. All were disabled due to injuries sustained in the line of duty.
Volunteers, some of whom are disabled LEOs, came from hundreds of miles away to bring to bear their efforts and resources to serve these fallen brothers. Some of the volunteers were active LEOs and some never served. Others were business owners and company representatives. This weekend, all were focused on a common mission: to serve and support our honorees.
This weekend, our heroes represented a broad age range. While one was recently injured in the line of duty, the others were injured three or more years earlier. Their lives, and the lives of those close to them, changed forever as a result of their injuries. They have endured physical and emotional hardships compounded by the financial hardships of the loss of a salary and benefits. In most cases, their stories have become far too familiar. Medical retirement from law enforcement leaves LEOs in dire financial straits. In addition, many feel abandoned by their departments and the governments they served, their final days of service long forgotten in a morass of rules, regulations and red tape. Benefits promised and outlined in policies serving as poor substitutes for the ability to work 40 hours per week and collect a paycheck and earn benefits. Finally, their spouses, standing strong in the face of adversity, bear the weight of unimaginable stress searching for programs and financial relief that seems to always be on the horizon. All the while, these LEOs move forward. Sometimes dependent upon others for even basic necessities of life.
This weekend, however, these broken heroes were taken away from the daily stress of their new lives and brought to an environment of healing, camaraderie and support to continue their life-long healing process. For one weekend, their needs were met, they shared stories, laughed and cried with fellow LEOs in an atmosphere of support befitting the sacrifices they made for their communities. In a beautiful setting in rural Missouri, we saw that while their bodies may be broken, their hearts are intact. Their drive to succeed is alive and well and their refusal to give up is as strong as ever. They are, simply put, still LEOs in every sense of the word.
They may no longer wear their uniforms, but we all know the uniform does not make a LEO. Being a LEO is a calling. It is a passion to serve and to answer the call of help from strangers. It is that passion that carries these brave men through the surgeries and pain they have endured.
With handshakes, hugs, and tears, we parted from our new friends today. The heroes and their families thanked us for what we did for them. They said they appreciated our services and our sacrifices. However, through our service to them, we renew ourselves. We gave them a few days of time back in the fold of the law enforcement community. It is a strong community with arms broad enough to hold up and support the fallen and we must support them. We must do a better job of ensuring that no LEO injured in the line of duty ever wants for healthcare or groceries for themselves and their families. For if we are unable to focus our efforts on those among us who gave so much, then we will fail as public servants and our cities and counties cannot count themselves as communities. A community cares for those in need.
You can help Hunting For Heroes by letting us know about a disabled LEO in your community. You can also make a donation to the organization. Finally, you can serve as a volunteer at one of our events. Come see the smile on the face of a disabled LEO who meets the commander of the state patrol who arrived just to meet him. Watch a disabled LEO’s face as he receives gifts and spends time with people who gather just to honor him and his family. See the faces of family members who see their injured LEO smile and laugh for the first time in years. Watch as these heroes learn that they can be a part of the outdoors and fish and hunt like they did before their injuries took a toll. Support Hunting For Heroes and see what true passion, courage and determination resides in the heart of a hero.