Respect- the last revenge
Yesterday, I attended the funeral of a friend. He was a good man who was dedicated to his family and friends. He was committed to his brothers and sisters in blue and a dedicated member of the Fraternal Order of Police. He retired after thirty years of service with the Dekalb County Police Department. During those thirty years of service, he never took a sick day.
Tom retired with the rank of lieutenant and had an amazing impact on the lives of his officers. One of them flew back from Texas to attend his funeral. He worked investigations and patrol and loved every minute of it. His quick wit and reputation for exemplary police work provided fodder for those who spoke at his funeral service. Deeply embedded in their words was an undying respect for Tom, his work, and the man he was.
As I thought about Tom and the words spoken in his honor, I thought about the long days he worked as a LEO. Thirty years without a single sick day-amazing. How many assaults were committed upon him? How many curse words were hurled at him? How much venom and contempt were directed toward him? Still, he moved forward, performed his sworn duties, and retired. Then, the years of stress, lack of sleep, and the job caught up with him when he died on the one year anniversary of his retirement.
Tom was a friend to many, but he was my friend, too. He gave of himself at every opportunity, even after he died. His organs will change the lives of many people including two LEOs in his own department. His legacy will carry forward in a project that Tom pushed to achieve with all his heart, My Brother’s House. This home will serve as a temporary home for families of LEOs who are visiting or supporting LEOs while they receive treatment at hospitals and facilities in Atlanta like The Shepherd Center.
The criminals and anti-cop fools running around today, especially the ones in Dekalb County, Georgia, may malign LEOs. They may curse at them, and fight them, and show their contempt at every turn. They may do their best to turn their communities into inhospitable dens of despair. However, Tom was not there for them. He was there for the people who wanted to live decent lives, raise their children safely, and treat others well. Often, his mission exposed him to the worst of the worst, the people who cared not a lick for their neighbors. While Tom may not have changed the world, he certainly saved some lives, protected people, and put his life in danger for strangers.
The headlines may be filled with hateful rhetoric about LEOs and bad guys still run loose in Dekalb County. However, the best revenge anyone could ask for is having the respect of the people you care about. In that regard Tom was a rich man, richer than many I have known. Richer than anyone would ever believe a person could be making a LEO’s salary for thirty years.
Tom may be gone, but in his place, every day, thousands of LEOs go to work each day, doing their jobs and putting their lives in danger. They may not acquire wealth, but the respect they earn cannot be purchased at any price. Stay safe.