Today I was working on our agency's LODD benefit packet for families and went on ODMP as a resource. Thought I'd look at your page. Shouldn't have done that at work! I can hear you now "Oh pooh bear". I rarely post here but thought I would today. I read the one from mom about being the guest speaker. It's a little long but here is what I said. I hope that it has meaning to anyone who reads it. Love & Miss you!
Thank you for the honor of speaking tonight. To ensure I don’t get tongue tied I hope you won’t mind if I use my notes:
Certain dates hold special meaning to us like Birthdates, holidays, wedding anniversaries, etc. Those dates are important. Let me give you some specific dates, please bear with me as there are a few: December 14th, 1928; January 20th, 1929; December 24th, 1931; November 6th, 1954; December 3rd, 1971; December 2nd, 1972; December 3, 1979; March 29, 1983; September 23rd , 1984; August 22nd 1991; December 13th 1997 and May 24th 1999.
What can you recall about those dates? Some of you may recognize one of them because you were working at the Collier County Sheriff’s Office or Naples Police Department and know of the tragedy that befell a fellow deputy on that particular day. You remember that a co-worker, a friend died.
There are many here tonight that know those specific dates and probably the hour, that they received news that forever changed their lives. The day their father, son, brother, grandfather, or uncle died. If you were to talk to these surviving family members about the day their loved one was killed in the line of duty, many would not be able to recall a lot of details about the day itself. Because like so many other days had before, the day began routinely. Their loved one put on their uniform, packed a lunch, said goodbye and I love you before heading out the door. For them that day started like any other.....until the knock at the door, the sight of deputies on the doorstep and the news no one ever wants to hear.
They can probably tell you in great detail because when that news comes, everything slows down.... then everything crashes.
I know from experience, because these are the things I remember when my brother, Sgt. Michael Larson of the Bryan County Sheriff’s Office in Georgia was killed in the line of duty on December 10, 2006. I can tell you in great detail about the call I received. It was 1:30 in the morning.
At first I was confused I assumed a call at that hour was our Dispatch needing something, but it wasn’t dispatch. From this stranger on the other end of the line I understood two names Mike and Lisa (mikes wife). My head cleared quickly and I heard that there had been an accident, I heard Mike’s name....What? Ok, a drug impaired driver left his disabled vehicle in the road, Ok, Mike was responding to back up another officer, there was an accident.....and I remembered I interrupted her and asked where Mike was NOW? The person on the end of the phone said he died. My next question was if anyone had called my mom who lived just next door or my dad who was in Indiana. When she said they just got off the phone with my mom, I simply hung up. I immediately left my house and walked to my mom’s house where she opened the door and we clung to each other and we cried. We called my two sisters and through sobs tried to console each other. Those early morning events are seared into my memory. Our family finding ways to cope and support each other as best we could.
Over the next few days we experienced a wide range of emotions anger, frustration, fear, and unbridled sadness. Woven in with these “normal” feelings of grief was also pride. We were all proud that Mike had honorably served his community, pride that grew when the community came out to thank US for his sacrifice, pride when his sacrifice was honored by the Police Unity Tour. During his memorial service members of his agency shared stories about working with Mike, like the time when the Capt got a call thanking him for the new traffic unit out in the school zones. The Capt. Was puzzled because he knew there was no new traffic units or equipment due to budget constraints. He soon learned that it was Mike out there slowing traffic. He had “built” a radar gun using black paint and a Pringles Can to get people to slow down in the school zone. These were small moments in time where we were able to smile through the tears.
As time has gone by the tears come less often, but every now and then I hear a song, or maybe a familiar phrase he’d say, the heartache sneaks back in. Grief is not limited to days, weeks, months or years. There are many times when we think “He would have loved to see this” or “I wish he were here”. We often think of the events of that fateful night. When he was responding to help someone else, doing what he was called to do, knowing this brings us some measure of comfort.
Every now and then I will get an email from one of Mike’s colleagues or see a note on the Officer Down Memorial Page that lets me and my family know we are not alone and he has not been forgotten. Any attempt at showing support can mean the world to someone. And remember as I said, grief does not go away after a few weeks, months, or even years. Over time we get busy with life but regardless of the timing or method, showing compassion to the bereaved family in your own way is always welcome.
To the wives, parents, children, siblings, and friends here tonight who have been touched by the lives we honor, you have been called upon to bear a special burden. And, though there is no speech or ceremony that can ease the pain, tonight we join together to honor your loved ones courage and to fill your hearts with our gratitude.
For all of those here who answer the call to keep our county safe, you know that every kiss from your spouse, every hug from a child, every visit with a parent, means more. So, I ask that you honor the lives of your fallen colleagues by giving as much of yourself to your loved ones as you give every day in service to our community. We all know that without their love and support, your service would not be possible. Family is everything!
You are our fallen officers’ legacy. You share their courage, selflessness, and dedication. Thank you for representing them and my brother.
Calvin Coolidge said “No person was ever honored for what he received. Honor has been the reward for what he gave.” The memorials outside the Collier County Sheriff’s Office, the Naples Police Department, at state capitals and at the National Memorial all honor those who entered into law enforcement know fully that they might one day be called upon to lay down their lives. Those we honor tonight made that choice willingly. And, that is why their ultimate sacrifice means so much.
The EOW dates imprinted on our memorial wall are not just dates”....they are reminders of a personal commitment made by these men as an oath to keep our community safe. And it is during this week every year our fallen officers are honored. But it is not the dates; it is the events that are important to us and give us cause to remember.
In closing, I am reminded of a card I received after my brother’s passing from someone at the Sheriff’s Office and I wish share the sentiment. The card read “When you are sitting there alone and a memory of your loved one comes flooding back, that is their way of reaching out to you and letting you know you are still connected.”
Also, please know that when you share a memory or a story with the family members 1) it is welcome and 2) helps us stay connected with you, their brothers and sisters in law enforcement and the profession they loved so very much
February 28, 2017