On August 28,2012 two West Virginia State Troopers stopped a motor vehicle which had been operating recklessly on I-79 in Clay County. The vehicle was occupied just by the driver who, the Troopers determined, was driving while intoxicated. The subject was arrested, handcuffed and placed in the back of the Troop car. A tow truck was requested for an impound. Sadly, the events turned quite tragic after that. Deadly tragic.
As a retired police sergeant, and still a New Jersey police academy instructor, I will not seek to pontificate or comment critically on what went wrong. Suffice it to say- things went wrong. We in the law enforcement community know, because we ourseleves make mistakes and find ourselves thankful the consequences were not as such.
But in horrific instances such as this, when we stare and wonder in disbelief- we are moved to remember the person- the quality of their character, that would move someone to become a policeman, a fire fighter, a soldier or paramedic/EMS professional.
Christ tells us: “Truly I tell you my friends, greater love has no one than this- that he would lay down his life for a friend.” (John 15:13) How this is magnified when the “friend” is a stranger or, as in this case, society itself.
Christ also has taught us; “This is how we know what love is- that Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. We ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” (1 John 3:16)
Both these scriptures encourage us to do the right thing. We must be willing ourseleves to make a scarifice for our brothers and sisters. Even the ultimate sacrifice. Let us not forget those heros, unknown to us personally, who gave that sacrifice on September 11th. Paying the full measure of their lives, in hopes of giving some aid and comfort to strangers. At the very least, this is what we should be all willing to do. “God demonstartes his love for us- even though we be sinners- Christ dies for us” (Romans 5:8)
After I became a police officer, freshly minted out of the police academy, my Department suffered the loss of Det. Richard McGilvery by gunshot in October of 1978. Still probationary and adjusting to my fellow officers, I took comfort in the oath we swear as policeman: “to not turn from peril or presumption but to champion steadfastly in protection of the meek, weak and fearful.”
This then is the heart of Trooper Marshall Lee Bailey ( age 42 with 17 years of service) and Trooper Eric M. Workman (age 26 with just 20 months of service). Without concern for their own lives, comfort and safety, they wore the uniform. They answered the call everyday- to be God’s servants of protection and freedom. While we pause to mourn their life, we must move forward in greater celebration of it. Christ tells us: “… do not be afraid of those who kill the body, for after that they can do no more.” (Luke 12:4)
I close with a poem by Peter Hornback, known in police circles as “The Final Inspection”. I submit it in tribute to these fallen officers, and all others who have paid the sacrifice for my protection and freedom-
“The policeman stood and faced his God. Which must always come to pass. He hoped his shoes were shining as brightly as his brass.
“Step forward now, Officer. How shall I deal with you? Have you always turned the other cheek? To my Church, have you been true?”
“The Officer squared his shoulders, ‘No Lord, I guess I ain’t. Cause those of us who carry badges can’t always be a saint.
“But I never took a penny that wasn’t mine to keep. I worked a lot of overtime when my bills got far to deep.
“And I never passed a cry for help, though at times I shook with fear. And sometimes, God forgive me, I wept unmanly tears.
“I know I don’t deserve a place among the people here, they didn’t want me around except to calm their fear.
“But if you’ve got a place for me Lord, it needn’t be so grand. I’ve never expected or had too much, so if you don’t- I’ll understand.”
There was silence all around the throne where the saints had often trod. As the officer waited quietly for the judgement of his God.
“Step forward now brave Officer, you’ve borne your burdens well. Come walk a beat on Heaven’s streets- you’ve done your time in hell.”
May almighty God embrace the souls of all those who die for us in protection of our society and her freedom. May he make of us instruments of his justice among people and nations, so that His will be done. Comfort those who mourn and give to us your blessing for peace. Amen.
“For he will command his angels to take charge of you and guard you in all your ways.” (Psalm 91:11)